Chapter 1: Prologue
Nepeta Leijon was a girl. A usual and normal young adult werewolf, who took out the trash, and hunted for small creatures for dinner when the grocery fund dropped down a little too much. Her hair was cut short, and always wearing the same grubby jacket, Nepeta was rather memorable. She spoke in puns when nervous or anxious, and she had a cleft lip as a child. It was fixed, money was saved and from then on the scar always held fond memories for the girl. She was short, all dense muscle and high energy making her rambunctious and impatient. Nepeta’s mixed skin was light brown, her hair auburn blends of brown that she enjoyed having people run their fingers through. With her new family and their small house, she was happy.
She was best friends with Equius Zahhak, a little less of a normal boy. He was tall, big muscles and long shimmering hair that made him stand out rather perplexingly. He was mature, straight laced and rather prudish in all honesty. He enjoyed working with his hands, fiddling with cars and mechanics and designing prosthetics her could never rightfully afford to make. He knew what was possible, and was more than likely to just go with the course of nature. He tended to sweat an unhealthy amount, giving his hair almost a greasy texture, and an awkward smile made him memorable in a different kind of way. His skin was almost umber, tanned from years of the sun.
The two of them were the best of friends.
They lived in a house, tiny shack with a collection of rooms and barely running water--thanks to the cistern and well nearby--but it was their home. They lived with Kanaya Maryam and Karkat Vantas, two vampires more likely to settle the problems than cause them. Kanaya, a tall and slender matronly woman was very much the adult, she had easily a hundred years on any of the other occupants. Karkat was the temperamental child, quippish and coarse, not to mention grating. But they made their way by. Just outside of a small town in the middle of nowhere, the house was undisturbed for many years up until the two werewolves found a certain weakened Satyr.
From then on, all hell broke loose. And although not immediately, those actions made by Nepeta and Equius that early summer evening would proceed to crack and chip away all safety for the small group, but even more set up a chain of events to--if not successfully combated--destroy the world.
Chapter 2: Chapter 1
The beginning of a long and winding story, the key of a name, ponds and showers, an open window, and murmuring voices.
Once again thank you to my beta reader, and the wonderful person this is dedicated to.
It was a warm summer morning when Equius and Nepeta left the house, the similar haze of warmth and comfort surrounding the small home as sunlight cast shadows between the trees. It was quickly interrupted, the certain mixed girl swinging the screen door open and taking off. Nepeta bounded from the door, feet thudding against the small porch before she was jumping over the stairs, landing and making a small dust cloud. The girl took a deep breath of the natural air, listening for the birds chirping and tree branches swaying she loved so dearly. Her lungs stung the littlest bit from her excitement until she calmed down enough, kicking around dry clumps of earth.
“Do you have the list?” Nepeta asked finally, rolling up the sleeves of her green jacket and turning around.
Equius opened the door slower, more careful as he took each step down the stairs and pulled his hair into its usual high ponytail. “Of course I do, as if anyone would trust you with a list that must be noted during all instances of the day.” Equius’ words were light and playful, the undercurrent of sarcasm was almost lost in the way his eyes crinkled in a smile. He too paused, taking in the beauty of the early morning sky before Nepeta replied.
“Now that’s some fighting words!” Nepeta said, punching her companion on the arm and raising her fists. “Put up your jukes!” She playfully swatted and gently bunted Equius with her fists, while the man himself turned at the sound of the door opening again.
“You two, be home before sundown this time.” Kanaya spoke, ever so slightly leaning out of the screen door. He pale skin caught the smallest glimmer of light as Equius looked at her and nodded, before he spoke in return.
“Will you and Vantas be feeding tonight?” He asked, ignoring the way Nepeta gave up and pulled on his wrist to try and get him to walk. She held his wrist and leaned with all her body weight, while Equius still chatted away with Kanaya unbothered.
“Yes, I do believe so. It’s been quite a while and Karkat can get rather grumpy.
“I do not get fucking grumpy ! You make it sound like I’m a child!” A muffled voice yelled from inside.
Kanaya smiled softly, and rolled her eyes. “Before sundown.” She repeated.
“Will do!” The other girl yelled back, almost falling over as her friend began moving. “So she wants us home before she leaves,” Nepeta repeated, counting on her fingers how many hours between then and sundown.
“That is what she just said, is it not?” Equius replied, voice laden with sarcasm yet again. He looked down at his companion, sunlight glinting off his glasses in a way that made Nepeta want to jump up and swat them off.
“Oh stuff it!” She crossed her arms, kicking a stick from the pathway. Nepeta smiled almost immediately after, and the two dissolved into giggles and chortles. They walked the small path into the out of the way town, a few lone trucks and minivans passing by as the two neared--and eventually--crossed the main street leading into town. The dusty shops and weathered buildings hung brown and gray, a few early morning stragglers walking up and down the sidewalks. Nepeta waved at the usual dog walkers, Equius nodding at the older pedestrians until they reached the main strip.
“Groceries first?” Equius asked confusedly, looking over the paper.
“Where else do we have to go?” Nepeta replied, leaning back and trying to peek at the paper in his hand.
“Pick up work from a few houses, but Maryam wrote groceries first for some peculiar reason.” Equius murmured, scanning down the paper. “She deems it necessary to get the food for the house before the retrieval of her livelihood…”
“Well how about this, I’ll go to each house and you take the list to the grocery!” The girl suggested, snatching the list from his hands and beginning to fold it.
“Nepeta what are you-”
“We’ll get it done twice as fast this way! Just trust me!” Nepeta smiled, taking a step back as she ripped the list clean, handing the lower half to her friend.
Equius’ jaw clenched, before he relaxed. “And you’re sure you’ll be fine?” He asked, sliding his glasses down to meet eyes with her.
“No sweat!” She grinned, stepping back up and showing her back to him. “Here, pat it for luck.”
“You make no sense sometimes.” Equius sighed, rolling his eyes. Even though, his hand found it’s way to press gently against Nepeta’s shoulder blade and scar. “Just yell for me, I’ll be right there.” He spoke, taking a step down the strip towards the grocer’s.
“I won’t forget! You better not either!” She yelled too loud, taking off on her jog up the strip towards the small residential area.
Equius walked, mindlessly adjusting his shirt and reading over the grocery list. Bare minimums as usual, nothing too extravagant. His footsteps led him down, and into the small grocery store as a voice rang out that received his usual guttural response without getting his focus. Equius followed his path; up the bread aisle, grabbing a dollar loaf, turning down towards the dairy, and before he could even notice he was in the checkout setting everything down. Quadruple checking the list, Equius didn’t snap out of his haze until the voice asked him for the god-knows how many-th time.
“Hey, you listening to me, or what?” She asked, bringing Equius’ head snapping up, watching her with almost fear in his eyes. It was the cashier, long and curling dark hair held up in a ponytail--which she was threading her fingers through--who spoke, staring down Equius with curiosity. “You on the right plane of existence now?” Her thick red lips almost spat the words at him, he was taken aback.
“Why… well, yes I s-suppose I am.” He replied, looking down and flattening his shirt against his stomach to try and avoid the tension. “I’d like to apologize-”
“You’re chill man.” The girl replied, smiling the smallest bit as she began--and subsequently finished--scanning the groceries. It wasn’t bright or shimmering, but it was there and it made Equius smile himself. Glancing at her nametag, he found three simple letters printed.
“That’s a beautiful name. A-Aya, I mean.” He spoke, fishing for his wallet and withdrawing a ten dollar bill.
“Thanks. Short for Ayako.” She seemed to just let her words float from her lips, aimless as her deft fingers made change and handed it to Equius’ sweaty hand. “See you around.” She said, Equius still standing still and watching the way her neck curved and leaned as she did, the simplicity of her grace as she fidgeted in place and wiped down her area.
“Y-yes…” His voice died as another customer entered her line, and the two women began to talk. Taking the cue, he gripped the bag and began to hurriedly exit the store. Stepping out into the morning bustle of the town, he was praying for his heart to slow down as he slowly walked towards the path.
Nepeta meanwhile stopped at the first house on her list, a kind old woman handing over a few old dresses with simple instructions for embroidery pinned to each. The second stop was a busy mother, handing over scuffed children’s clothes with a hasty note pinned on the top. The final was a man, a suit needing intakes. When the young woman counted and each fabric pile accounted for to the note properly, she carefully hefted the few over her shoulder, and stuffed the original half of a note in her pocket. The fabrics were a bit thick and heavy for her liking but she carried them and crossed the streets carefully to cut through some backyards to the path out of town.
The pair reunited barely an hour later, Equius chastising Nepeta for her lateness while he had refrigerated goods. They snarked and joked, and there were as always smiles and snorting laughs before they were back at the house again. Equius took the groceries to the kitchen, Nepeta carefully ascending the rickety staircase of the house to Kanaya’s workroom. It doubled as her bedroom, but the woman rarely--if ever--slept so there was no need to call it anything but what it was. The werewolf knocked gently, before the door opened and she handed over the pile.
“That was fast.” Kanaya mildly observed, taking the fabrics as if they weighed nothing at all. “And everything is here?”
“Thank you Nepeta.” And just like that the door was closed again. Nepeta sighed, and with a mild sound of remembrance, removed the crumpled half of a note from her pocket and slid it under the door just in case there was something Kanaya needed to see. She took her way down the stairs yet again, and walked between a growing argument between Karkat and Equius. It was either one thing or the other with them, and Nepeta gave a small salute as she walked back out of the house again.
“I’m off to screw around in the woods!” She yelled, jumping off the porch and shifting, shaking her fur and stretching. Her snout dug around in the dirt, a strange scent sending her east as the morning began it’s change to afternoon.
Nepeta never enjoyed much of a calm day, and her frequent runs through the surrounding forestry was always an excellent way to lose the feeling of routine.
“Stay away from the water after last month!” Karkat yelled from behind the door, and the girl howled in reply. She took off without much more of a talk, and let herself go.
She had all the time in the world, a sprawling long forest and as much energy as she could expend at her fingertips. Her paws dug into the earth, and the girl ran. She sprinted, dodging between trees and rolling around under the warm sun, as her fur got increasingly dirty. She just ran though. Nepeta distracted herself, occasionally trying--and failing--to climb trees, finding hiding spots, and eventually the girl simply ran out of things to do. Her imagination gave way, and she ended up sniffing her way back home.
The sun had passed its point in the sky, shadows disappearing as a strange scent needled it’s way into her nose. It was blood, and her neck hair stood on end. She stopped, smelling her way through the trees and grass towards what Nepeta believed to be a dead or dying animal. If it came down to it, the girl could put it out of it’s misery. What she wasn’t expecting, was the small pond holding a soggy and trampled form half neath it’s water.
Cautiously, the wolf edged closer, watching with a keen eye on the human laying in the water. It was presumably male, short and scraggly brown hair battered and clinging to his face as Nepeta was within a yard.
Nepeta growled, a quick bark to try and rouse it to which nothing would work. The human was still, and Nepeta closed her eyes to call out.
Nepeta? What’s the matter?
I found someone out here.
Looks like it.
Unconscious I take it.
Alright. Bring it in.
The wolf neared, and put one muddy paw on the creature's shoulder. Gingerly grabbing the flop of hair, Nepeta’s teeth grazed hard calcifications making her let go and squint. Even more gingerly now, she grabbed again and dragged the human up onto the mud, until the dry dirt. Although when it reached the dry patch, it was less than human. The plain shirt on his torso bled down to reveal goat legs, hooves down at the end and everything.
I take it back. Not human.
Equius waited for her to continue.
What is it doing this far from the ocean side? It should be with it’s herd. The nearest collection of satyr that I am familiar with living in these woods is on the oceanside.
Hey man, I don’t know. He’s absolutely out of it though.
The girl flipped him over carefully, revealing the battered and bruised skin decorating his neck. The warm breeze bled through the trees, tempting Nepeta to just leave the creature there until it’s groan floated into the air. She tensed, before giving in and shifting. Her jacket was taken off, back used to wipe the Satyr’s face as he came to.
His voice was more of a whine, weak and too gravelly to be how he naturally talked. A few stray words left his lips, none of them making a full phrase.
“What’s your name?” Nepeta asked, cleaning and brushing back his hair.
He blinked up at her for a few seconds, before he responded.
“Leg,” he spoke.
“Leg? What kinda name is-”
“M-My leg.” He breathed, interrupting her. “I think my leg is broken.”
“Alright, just stay calm. What’s your name?”
“T-Tavros.” He replied, looking up at her. His eyes were sparkling now, and he seemed to be less out of it. “My name is Tavros.” His muddy hand clutched her forearm, shaking just barely.
“Alright Tavros, stay calm.”
“Do you see Rufioh? Or Alejandro? O-Or-?” He tried to lean up, having Nepeta hold him down.
“Listen to me. Nobody’s around here.” Her hands pressed flat against him, voice soft and gentle. “I wanna take you to where I live, you need some help and my friend can help you with your broken leg. My name is Nepeta.”
Tavros nodded, holding onto her wrist as her free hand slung the dirty jacket over her shoulder.
He says he has a broken leg.
Half goat, yes?
I can manage.
I thought so.
She got the Satyr to let go, standing up to scan over the forest just to be sure there were no threats. A shadow caught her eye, having Nepeta turn and step off, jogging to what she saw. It dissipated, shadow losing itself into the trees when Nepeta’s hand found the bark of the tree. She growled low, changing just enough to swipe a hard hook across the tree bark.
“N...Nepeta?” Tavros asked, slowly sitting up.
“Sorry…. Thought I saw something.” Her face hid other thoughts, but she shook them away.
With some maneuvering, Tavros’ dirty body made its way into Nepeta’s arms. She held him tight, his bones felt weak and spindly beneath her grasp. He held onto her tight, doing his best to stay quiet as Nepeta moved. The girl carried him well enough, his skin pigment close enough to her own that if worse came down to it they could at least pass for siblings at a distance.
He didn’t talk much, listening to the soft crunch of grass and leaves beneath Nepeta’s sneakers. He did in fact have horns, Nepeta learned that after he sneezed, sending one into her shoulder.
“Pointy little assholes.”
“Y-yeah. Sorry.” He replied, trying to hold still.
The sun was beginning the day shift into evening, shadows once again decorating the ground as the pair reached the house. Equius was sitting on the porchstep, threading his hands through his hair--A habit Nepeta noticed when he was nervous--, before he stood and walked closer to the two.
“Which leg?” He asked, pulling his hair back up and into it’s ponytail.
“Uh.. left.” Tavros replied in Nepeta’s grip gesturing vaguely to his lower extremity.
“Alright, give him here.”
Nepeta complied, carefully moving Tavros into Equius’ significantly larger arms, before the three returned into the house.
“Oh fuck, I thought you said she found a hurt animal.” Karkat was standing in the small doorway to the kitchen, crossing his arm over his chest.
“I was half correct.” Equius replied factually.
“Real fucking smooth Zahhak.” Karkat grumbled in response.
Tavros waved at Karkat as Equius moved into the main room, a sheepish smile on his lips. Nepeta followed after removing her shoes, watching as Tavros was laid down on the tarp covered sofa
“I’ll need you to remove your shirt to get a comprehensible analysis of the full extent of your injuries.”
Nepeta watched for a few moments; content in hearing her friend murmur and mumble anatomy mumbo jumbo. If he wasn’t a werewolf, Nepeta was assured he would be one of the best vets of the time. Her thoughts were interrupted quickly however.
“Greenstick closed fracture, he’ll need a splint and to stay off this leg for a good amount of time.”
“I can make a splint.” She replied, taking off toward the back door. Just before she made it out though, she ran back through, grabbing the sneakers she left at the front door before running back and sliding them on when she reached the back. The door opened and closed, Karkat begrudgingly taking Nepeta’s place on the stool in the room.
“Care to give our visitor the rundown? I know how you oh so enjoy ordering others around.” His voice bordered the uncanny valley between repulsed and turned on, making Karkat groan and press the balls of his hands against his eyes.
“Always so vulgar.” Equius breathes, wiping his forehead on the bottom of his shirt.
“Tavros.” The Satyr corrected.
“-Ros, this is what we call the diamond house. We don’t fuck with anyone, and nobody fucks with us. Kanaya and I are vampires; Equius and Nepeta are werewolves.” He seemed to be making and crossing off a personal checklist, counting on his fingers. “We can keep you here for a little while, we have a spare room but not much else. Eventually we’re gonna have to kick your ass back out to find whatever herd you live with.
“And as Zahhak said, you’re not gonna be allowed on your leg, so I guess we’ll try and help you get fixed up over time.”
Tavros nodded, looking down at Equius who still ran his fingers along his leg bones, pressing hard against the flesh. He hit a tender spot quickly though, making the patient wince and whine.
“One closed greenstick in left femur; comminuted closed in right fibula most likely due to hard sharp pressures received on dorsal side-”
“He likes to speak in jackass sometimes. Photography was more my jazz where he seems to eat physiology garbage for every meal.” Karkat picked some grime from beneath his fingernails as he talked, before chewing on them.
Equius continued his observations; and Karkat tried to file his nails against the wood countertop before accidentally carving into the wood. He sighed and swore, until eventually Nepeta returned with more than enough string and tree bark.
“Right or left?”
“Upper left, lower right.” Equius replied, taking a step back for Tavros to pull his shirt off.
“Break your other leg while I was away Tav?” Nepeta smiled, grinning and flashing her teeth. The boy smiled, a little grin to lighten the mood.
The room was quiet, occasional shuffling and moving from the three playing doctor but otherwise silent thanks to the evening maroons and reds bleeding into the orange of the clouds. Tavros occasionally cried out sharply, or hissed through his teeth but never told them to stop.
“So what happened to you?” Nepeta asked after a few minutes, tying the lower splint around Tavros’ lower leg. He winced, but replied.
“Something was going down. Crazy winds? Eh… water was getting whipped e-everywhere.” He tried to gesture with his hands, before Equius grunted disapprovingly. Tavros hurried an apology and pinned his arms backs down as Equius examined him. “Alejandro said something about it being, unsafe… W-we grabbed what we could and ran. I remember tripping, an’,” He tended to pause more and more often as his memory blotted out, and pain replaced his thoughts.
“I tripped. E-Everything blacked out.”
“Alright. Do you have any idea where they might have gone?” Karkat asked, crossing and uncrossing his arms.
“No. We’ve never really, had to like, flee like that."
“It appears no major damage done to your ribcage, and rather intense bruising and some cuts but nothing life threatening. Definitely on bed rest.” Equius seemed to miss the finer points of their interactions, more focused on prognosis and following diagnosis as opposed to viewing the awkward half smile Tavros was giving him.
“Or, couch rest.” Karkat corrected, running his hands through his hair. He perked up a few seconds later, and called out. “Thank god, it’s taken you plenty goddamn long enough already Kanaya.” He stood up from the stool, and walked over to the rickety stairway.
“Kanaya?” Tavros breathed, as Equius’ large hand pressed gently on his sternum.
The vampire herself descended the stairs, nodding. “Yes, that would be me.” She looked over at the boy for a few seconds, and adjusted her grip on the black shawl around her shoulders. Her long red skirt billowed slightly as she stood close to the screen door.
“Yes.” Karkat said, splitting the silence before the two took off, door opened and closed.
“And they complain about using our wolfsense.” Nepeta whined. “Not fair when they got freakin’ halfway future vision.” With a final knot, the first splint was complete, Nepeta crawling up to sit on the couch tarp next to Tavros’ head. “So Tavros your real name?”
“Yeah. I didn’t see a real-...” His voice cut off as Equius finished poking around his ribs, taking a deep breath and coughing. “-point in giving a fake name when you seemed to be telepathically talking with someone, and you saw my legs.” He finished sheepily. “It’s Trad though. In, case you were wondering, or something.”
“Neah.” Nepeta spoke, smiling down at the Satyr.
“Ezra.” Equius spoke.
“Woah! Thought you forgot how to do that ya big lug!” Nepeta gasped, before grinning.
“Do what, if I may inquire.” Equius looked up at her, sunglasses sliding down the bridge of his nose.
Two thirds of the room burst into laughs, Tavros snorting through the pain as Nepeta smirk and choked out laughter.
When Equius stood--rolling his eyes and adjusting his glasses-- he gave Tavros a final once over before speaking. “For that, Nepeta you can bathe him.”
“What?!” Both spoke.
“You’re both filthy, one from mud, and one from dirty pond water and mud.” He gestured to the two, and Nepeta whined, loud and over the top throwing her head back. Equius smiled, wiping his forehead again while meandering across the way to the kitchen. “Use the shower out back. Take one of the lawn chairs and make a small rest or something of the like for his legs. And then,” He seemed to be reaching into one of the drawers, before picking up a tattered wash cloth and pelting it at Nepeta.
“Uugghhhhh you know that’s like a swear word!” Nepeta flipped Equius the double bird,
“A necessary action none the less.” Equius leaned out the low window, pulling open the icebox and grabbing the quart of milk from the morning. While he enjoyed a nice glass, Nepeta stood and stretched her arms.
“Alright, guess it’s bath time.” She whined, looking at Equius over her shoulder. When he didn’t respond, she muttered a swear and leaned down to Tavros. “Alright buddy, let’s get going. Night showers are at least cooler than day ones.”
“That sounds like your excuse for doing things at night instead of day if you ask me.” Tavros replied, pushing himself up and into Nepeta’s arms. “What, you wear purple clothes and black lipstick?” He joked, holding onto Nepeta as she carried him out the way she went to retrieve sticks.
“Hey, I bet I could rock a nice soft purple pantsuit if you’re sittin’ on a pile of cash.”
She sat Tavros down on a lawnchair, before hefting the lawn chair up. “Got any special interests?” She asked, huffed between puffed cheeks.
“I uh, well I play the pan flute.” He replied, gripping the lawn chair and wincing as Nepeta toted him over to the outdoor shower. The sun had almost completely set, and if they dawdled too long it would be way too hard to see, even if the lantern was retrieved. She set the chair down just to the side of the shower head, and shuffled around, collecting the small bottles of product and counting them.
“Really? I thought that was a bit stereotypical.” She spoke, taking off her jacket and assessing the damage. Her shoes got kicked off next.
“Well, you ever heard someone beatbox and play the pan flute?” He asked, smiling.
“No.” Nepeta said, looking over at him incredulously.
“Oh hell yeah. W-When I was little and I was pretending to be human, I hung out with this guy, who would, like, record me beatboxing and then we’d rap over with vocals.”
“Damn dude, how am I supposed to top that? Best I got is kickboxing. I beat the SHIT out of this one kid--he totally deserved it-- and-” She was cut off, somehow by herself as her eyes glanced off the shower head and realized what they were supposed to be doing. “Fuck, alright let’s get you cleaned up.” Something felt off, and now that she felt it she wanted to get back inside quicker than before.
The two continued talking, pleasant--if stilted in Nepeta’s case--conversation as Nepeta started the water and angled it at Tav’s legs, throwing him the old sponge from the corner. She meanwhile took off her dirty shirt and mud crusted pants, opting to just wait and hang out in her sports underclothes. She flicked the bands of her shorts against her thighs until Tavros had finished scrubbing what he could reach of his legs.
“Can I ask you something?”
“Why do you live with a werewolf and two vampires? Don’t you guys usually live in packs of something like that?”
“Oh, who’s being stereotypical now.”
“Cram it you- it was a serious question!”
Nepeta took a deep breath, and scratched behind her ear. “Bad blood I guess. I’m from the east clan that ran around a few towns over. My mom, well she helped run everything and I was the only kid between her and the alpha, there were others from others but none could fight like me.”
Nepeta twiddled her thumbs, staring down. “And we were always fighting the west pack. They were usually stronger, but we hunted better and hid better because we were more naturally adept to the area, or some shit like that. That’s how Eq explained it to me. But mom wanted me to make a union with the best kid of the west pack. Turned out to be sweaty britches in there.”
“Is that how you guys met?”
She laughed, and shook her head. Nepeta walked over to the bottle of shampoo and tossed it to Tavros, and as he scrubbed his hair Nepeta stood under the water and scrubbed away the mud on her lower legs and arms. “We uh, actually ran into each other as little kids. Eq was trying to be a guard dog, and he got distracted. Ended up barking at a butterfly I was chasing, making me think he wanted to fight, and we wrestled. And as we grew up we started hanging out more. Drove me up a fuckin’ wall when mom told me Eq was the one I’d have to bond with. We were supposed to bring both the predominating packs of werewolves in the area together.
“You can imagine why we ran.”
“I’m sorry.” Tavros said, “Didn’t realize it could open up old wounds.”
“Don’t worry about it man, it’s cool.” The werewolf finished, stepping out of the spray of water. She flapped her arms around, shaking her head to try and get her curls dry. Tavros watched, and was greeted by a ragged towel being dropped on his head when Nepeta stepped out of his sight. He dried off best he could, Nepeta following suit with some purring as Nepeta nuzzled into her towel.
“So why do you play the panflute?” She asked, finishing dying off and careful as she lifted him- especially careful not to slip.
“It helps with the animal communion thing.” He replied, wincing and biting his lip. “Calms animals d-down so I can suggest to them.”
“Suggest?” Nepeta pulled the back door open with her foot, and stepped into the house.
“Like mind control. I don’t like those words though."
“Do you want me to make you a new one? Or I mean probably ask Eq, he could make a better one.” Nepeta walked by the creaky stairs, Tavros nodding as she pushed the door open to the small guest room. It had a bed, tiny nightstand and desk. The one window was tilted up and open in a corner, if there were curtains they would show the warm breeze leading into the room.
“I-if you could. It’d b-be nice to have something familiar.” His voice dropped in volume just slightly, “I mean if that’s okay.”
“Yeah, I understand. You need some rest anyway. I’ll ask him if he can.” Nepeta set the boy down, watching as his hands found his bare chest. “I’ll wash your shirt and get it back to you.” She noticed a few seconds later.
“Thanks.” He mumbled, looking at the ceiling.
“I’ll… leave you to your personal stuff.” Nepeta spoke after a few seconds, quickly escaping and closing the door behind her. She left not too soon after; she knew if she waited around she would hear the sound of Tavros’ cries, his shakes and fears coming out.
The girl instead collected the dirty clothes from the mainroom and shower, setting them in the water bucket settled on the kitchen tile. Glancing out the kitchen window, She heard familiar clinks and clangs of Equius hard at work on the old pickup truck out back, and sighed.
He was if at all possible, to be left alone while working. True, Nepeta hardly respected it, but for right now best to let her friend blow off some steam.
The clothes were left to soak, and in a blink Nepeta found herself curled up on her stripped bed, too hot to wear or need anything for bed. But she just sighed.
Something was off, she could feel it. Why was Tavros just abandoned? What was the shadow she saw when she found him? Why did she still feel an alien pair of eyes burning into the back of her neck?
Idly scratching the spot she felt the gaze, another shadow caught her attention outside the small bedroom window. It was a flit, and before she even knew what she was doing her hands were ripping up her window and her bed abandoned. It was hard to breathe, her chest was heaving and knuckles white on the window ledge.
The warm summer night was quiet, trees rustling and cicadas screeching. Equius was working on the car, and the sky was alit with thousands of stars.
There was nothing there.
Nepeta took a deep breath, and then another. It was unsettling, sending discomfort through her stuttered motions as she closed the window again. This time, the curtains were drawn.
It was time to sleep.
Chapter 3: Chapter 2
Equius found his hands shaking just slightly, waking up and pulling down his ponytail to lay his hair across his pillow. His eyes blurred in and out of focus, the young man pressing the balls of his hands against them. It was too early, far too early for how late he went to bed. Sitting up slowly, his back cracked and creaked like the metal beneath his fingers, and as he stood, stretching, he pulled on a shirt and swapped out his--rather embarrassingly horse and swirling star printed--sleep pants for gray shorts. He made a mental list of what was to be accomplished today, running down it as he pulled the glasses from their rest on the nightstand.
Everything stopped blurring as Equius put on his glasses, and cracking his knuckles Equius pushed open his bedroom door. Just along the hall was the guest room, door still closed. Cautious as ever, he opened the door and peered down at Tavros.
He was asleep, curled just slightly to the side as his legs allowed very little movement, and serene.
Equius nodded to himself, quietly closing the door again and stepping into the kitchen. The sun had risen not too long ago, and scrounging up a bowl of cereal he reached out the kitchen window and into the icebox for the milk.
When Nepeta came bounding down the hall, sliding along the wood floor in her socks and falling to the ground his hand didn’t even shake.
“Good morning Knievel, what brings you to the world of consciousness so early?” His voice was thick and sarcastic, barely scratchy from sleeplessness.
“You went to bed later than me so you can suck my dick.” Nepeta replied, throwing herself to her feet and grabbing the countertop.
Equius’ nose scrunched, and he glared. “First of all-”
“-and Tavros wants a pan flute.” She cut him off, swinging her arm to point at him. “And you’re the smartest goddamn moron I know, the only one who could make him one.”
“Was that supposed to be a compliment? Or?”
“Shoosh yourself!” Equius cut her off this time, “I am not going into town just to waste money on something for a Satyr who won’t be staying here! You are not pleading his case effectively might I add. Not with that repulsive mouth.”
“Wow, heartless much?” Nepeta grumbled. She crossed her arms, and swore. “Fuck man, he’s lost and lonely and I’ll bet damn well you see the same damn thing in him that we see in each other.”
He grumbled, adjusting the tank top and rolling his shoulder before returning his gaze to his bowl of cereal. Nepeta took what she could get, and yawned.
“So you’re gonna do it, right?”
“I’m not doing it just because you came bounding in here and begged.”
“So you’re doing it. Sweet. I’m gonna go take a catnap then.” Nepeta stretched victoriously, and pranced her way back to her room.
“And watch your language-!” Equius yelled just before her door clicked shut, and he grumbled. Alright, he had a little soft spot for wounded creatures. And Tavros was practically abandoned now, what could he do? Nepeta was right though, the way his eyes seemed to flit hopefully to the door, hunched and closed posture, worry and stutter, he was everything he had seen in Nepeta and himself when they first encountered Kanaya. But really? Pan flute? He was a mechanic, not a musician!
He took a deep breath. Thinking again as to what he would need, he finished his breakfast, setting the dish in the sink for later. Pipes, small in diameter and he could briefly borrow the lathe from the local college mechanic’s club, he pulled his hair back up as he grabbed his satchel.
Perhaps Tavros would want some special food, he didn’t seem much like the carnivore type where the other four house members were.
It was surprisingly cool when he walked the small forest path into town, stopping to look at the scratched tree he and Nepeta had marked, smiling fondly. He managed to smile entering the town, cutting across streets and sidewalks to reach the grocery store again.
“Two days in a row?” A voice called, leaning over her register, smacking gum against her bright red lips.
“Oh. Aya, correct?” Equius spoke, smile faltering slightly into embarrassment as he walked over. She nodded, and stood erect.
“Yeah. you never told me your name though.”
“E… Ezra.’’ He spoke, tongue tripping lightly over his ‘human’ name.
“Woah. And I thought my name was weird.” Her eyebrows rose for a split second, before Aya adjusted her nametag. “What brings you in today? Usually you’re a once a week kinda guy.”
“I’m housing a friend for a few weeks.” Equius’ words were slow and clunky, overtaken with nerves. He couldn’t afford to go into much detail before making a concrete story with Nepeta.
“Oh. Cool.” Ayako’s voice was short and curt, as her eyes scanned Equius’ body. “You’re pretty good looking when you’re not talking so much.” She observed, passively making personal calls on how his muscles seemed to flex and sheen with sweat as he got tense.
A strangled cough escaped Equius’ lips, he could feel red rising to the surface of his tanned cheeks. “You are not explicitly bad looking yourself.”
A snort laugh made it’s way from Ayako’s own mouth in reply. “Wow, I mean you seem creepy but I can dig it.”
“I-If you’ll excuse me, I have need to find proper food for my friend.”
The cashier nodded, letting Equius go as he silently stalked to the produce aisle.
Oh. Oh my. He was getting into something here.
And Nepeta could feel it. Her ears itched and she stretched in her bed, giving a low yawning rumble. Equius was in some kinda awkward trouble, and Nepeta gave about one shit, she couldn’t be assed to give two.
It had been a nice amount of time since she had returned to bed for the first time, and now the sun was up, bleeding that ever present heat back into the world. She drug herself out of bed, pulling on one of her faded t-shirts and a pair of workout shorts. Nepeta’s fingers carded through her hair as she walked, out her room and up the hall to check on Tavros. She opened the door, and the boy looked up at her.
“‘Morning.” Nepeta idly rubbed her ears, looking down at her companion. “Eq went out to get you some food probably an hour or two ago.”
“I asked him about the flute too, so he should be getting some stuff for that.”
“Hungry?” Nepeta leaned on the doorway, crossing her arms.
“Not especially.” Tavros looked away again, out the lone window. “Do you have anything I could distract myself with?”
Nepeta quirked a brow, before he continued.
“I don’t want to keep bothering you all. Best if I could, eh… like stay quiet in here.”
“Well we don’t have much to do inside but I can snoop around. Oh I’ll get your shirt drying now that the sun’s out and return it too. You wanna borrow one of mine or Eq’s for now?”
“That won’t be necessary.” A feminine voice rang out, Kanaya appearing half in the doorway. Nepeta waved her in, and Tavros followed suit before the vampire finally entered, taking a seat on the nightstand. In her hands Kanaya held a simple black shirt, and long sweatpants. “I took the liberty of using some old fabric to create some suitable clothes for our guest. Life in the forest couldn’t have allowed the luxury of a very many dressings.”
The Satyr nodded, tapping his fingers together as he looked Kanaya up and down. She was quiet, reserved as ever as she smiled calm and wistful. The woman handed the clothes over, Tavros taking them with a very many thank yous and Nepeta took her cue to leave.
“I really can’t thank you all enough for what you’re doing for me.”
“We’ll do everything we can. Just as long as you understand that if you betray us, you will not live to regret it.” Kanaya’s voice grew harsh, she leaned forward and her body loomed over Tavros.
He nodded quickly, and Kanaya retracted with that same smile. “I am glad we’ve reached an agreement. I heard from Nepeta that you play the pan flute.”
“Yeah, i-if Equius makes me one I can show you.” Tavros seemed to perk up a bit as the subject of conversation changed, and Kanaya--while having very little idea what Tavros was saying-- nodded appreciatively. Tavros talked of his fondness first for his original flute, and then communing with the creatures of the woods, and Kanaya occasionally interjected with her own interactions between the animals on her outings.
When Nepeta returned to the room, small deck of cards in hand, the two were pleasantly surprised.
“No dice, or regular cards, but I found some Uno ones.” The girl shrugged, baring a fanged smile. “I remember finding most of them in a torn pack walking home one day after that big storm a few years ago. I think they flew from one of the campgrounds.”
“Nice to hear you did not steal them.” Kanaya replied, standing briefly to adjust her red skirt, before returning to sit on the nightstand.
“I would take offence to that if I didn’t used to steal.” Nepeta stuck her tongue out, and leafed through them briefly before passing five out to each room member. “Alright match the,” her brain struggled for a moment, “color, or number.” She repeated the rules she remembered hearing, and looked at her hand. “And don’t forget to call uno.”
When Equius had finished using the lathe, he thanked the owners, ushering appreciative remarks and told them of course he would love to help in the winter’s engineering competition. After brief welding, and a borrowed hair ribbon from a friend, the pan flute was tied with a decorative blue ribbon, and wrapped before being nestled in Equius’ bag. It fit rather well in his hands, but he was worried about the size in Tavros’ more deft hands. Walking from the community college, the young man adjusted his own ponytail as he carried his satchel.
The hot air pressed down on the small town, pressing it’s inhabitants out of their houses to seek relief. Looking up, he saw the now rather busy shuffling of people down main street, talking and friendly yelling as everyone went about their business. It made him smile, knowing that everyone seemed to be doing rather well, and as he was cutting into one of the more residential areas a voice seized his attention.
His head snapped up, and he adjusted the prescription sunglasses on his face. It was Ayako, smiling and waving her arm at him. He waved back, and the two meet on the nearby street corner. Other samaritans walked around the two, giving them a small bubble to talk.
“Didn’t know you lived in here too.” She spoke, looking up at Equius.
“You live in this congregation?” Equius gestured vaguely over his shoulder.
“Well yeah, I work at the grocery store, I can’t afford some high class place. My family lives together in the big house a few blocks down.”
“I have two sisters and one brother, the little ones like to screw around while Minako--my older sister--has classes. Not when I have mine, but they save up their energy to pester me. Do you have any siblings?” Ayako asked, catching her long hair and pulling it into a low bun to combat the heat.
“I ah- I used to have a brother. We went different ways.” Equius spoke. Why are you telling even a half truth in this situation, best to outright lie than lead on the the truth you imbecile-
“I can relate. As soon as I can I’m going to get out of this place, I’ll be studying archaeology for a big firm in New York.” Her eyes seemed to sparkle the littlest bit as she spoke, and Equius smiled.
“So, do you live near here?” Ayako asked, voice dropping back down to normal.
Equius froze for just a moment, before weighing his options. Lie, and provide this woman with deceit she would most likely see through shortly, or tell the truth. The latter seemed better. “No, I’m afraid I do not. I inhabit the shack on the edge of the forestry.”
“Woah, the haunted one?” Ayako’s whole demeanor seemed to brighten, and she fiddled with the pinned nametag on her chest.
“Are those sorts of rumours really circulating?” Equius mumbled, wiping off his forehead.
“Hell yeah man, everyone sees, well I guess that must be you- and the catgirl there but nobody wants to get near it.”
“Strange….” The young man’s voice died down, thinking about the previously unidentified relationship the house held with the town.
“Well, maybe we could hang out again? When I don’t have work?”
“Like a…. Date?” Equius stiffened at the notion, smiling as awkwardly as he felt.
“Yeah, yeah I think I’d like that.” Ayako crossed her arms. “How about we meet up around here, say,” She looked up at him, while he was busy tracing the curves of her lips and jaw. She frowned slightly, and continued. “Tuesday?”
Equius straightened his back, adjusting his shirt. “I apologize, I seem to be overtaken by your beauty a few times too often to function as one should. I would implore you to repeat what you said previously.”
“Tuesday. We’ll meet up here, and you can take me out somewhere.” She spoke smug and demanding, and Equius nodded meekly.
“Yes Ayako, that would be lovely.”
“Good to hear. Around this time, since I should have the day off too.” She adjusted her purse, and brushed off her skirt, smiling. “Don’t be late Ezra.”
“I will not.” Equius replied, watching his date disappear down the residential sidewalk, letting his hand fall to his side. Her skirt gave a wonderful swish as she walked and Equius found his heart beating a little too loud in his chest. He had a date. In two days, Equius Zahhak had a real date.
When he returned to the house, those were the only thoughts circling in his head. Ayako was beautiful, she was powerful and assertive. Her lips were always painted that deep rust red, her dark eyes glinted mischievously when she ordered him. She was amazing. Setting his satchel on the countertop, Equius was lost in thoughts for a few moments which turned into seconds, and close to a minute when Nepeta’s voice rang out.
“Eq? You back?”
He blinked, finally releasing the strap from him grasp. “Yes, I am. I have a few presents for our houseguest.” Wiping off his neck, Equius smiled as he emptied the food into appropriate cabinets before leaning out the window to put the perishables in the icebox.
Making his way down the hall past the stairs, his smile disappeared as he stepped into the guest room, finding Nepeta and Tavros seated on the bed, Kanaya seated on the nightstand all engrossed in a game of uno. Tavros mumbled a swear, and drew what appeared to be the last card from the pile.
“Now what?” He asked, looking down at the green seven on the bed. It looked as though all of the cards had been split between the participants, and rather believably as Kanaya held roughly enough cards to outweigh a small dog.
“Here, I’ll shuffle.” Kanaya spoke, taking everyone’s cards.
“I do believe it would be best if you all stopped insisting on being so nice to one another.” Equius spoke, dropping down to sit on the bed between Nepeta and Tavros.
“Go big or go home.” Equius replied, smiling. Kanaya nodded, adjusting her seating again before dishing out the cards.
It didn’t take very long for the civil game to dissolve to shouts and yelling, eventually Karkat even making his way to the room and pulling over a chair, demanding to be dealt in. There were many reverses, the appearance of far too many draw cards, all in all by the end of the exceedingly long game the five seemed laugh exhausted.
“Damn red cards, ain’t worth anything!” Nepeta swore, throwing her rather hefty deck at Tavros’ empty hand, making the Satyr laugh.
“Not my fault you can’t recognize a good poker face!”
“ That is your own fault Leijon, I tried my best to-” Karkat gets cut off by Kanaya, wiping her eyes.
“You were more interested in trying to reverse the play to tamper with Equius’ hand.”
The five broke down again into laughing fits, only ending when a sound struck hard, muffled by the forestry around them.
“Dry lightning.” Kanaya spoke, standing. Karkat followed her, the two vampires leaving the room to search the opposite sides of the house, scanning the north and south patches of forestry.
“Oh shoot, I had better cover the car.” Equius spoke next, taking off out of the room and quickly out the back door--deftly managing to avoid Karkat. He ran over to the old vehicle, pulling out the tarp and hooking it the trucks lowest rim, just as lightning struck again, thunder rolling hard through the flatland. The sun was setting as the rain began pouring down, a rift in the clouds letting down waves of water. His greasy hair and shirt began to dampen as Equius turned back to the house, jogging close to the doorway when a sharp snap drew his attention.
He turned, letting the hot summer rain seep into his hair. “Hello?” No answer came, but just as he peered into the dark and damp forest, a shadow seemed to move and morph. It stood, taller than him and humanesque in it’s features. Equius stared frozen as one hand extended towards him.
“Who are you?”
The shape reached its border at the end of the treeline, and was about to step into the light of the house when Karkat yelled.
“Zahhak! Get the fuck back in the house already!”
He turned, looking at Karkat before returning to face the shadow. But just like that, the creature was gone. And with that, the werewolf ran back into the house.
A towel was wrapped around his shoulders, Nepeta standing beside Equius as the taller leaned down, lost in thought.
“Y’alright?” She asked, pulling the hair band out and shake drying Equius’ hair with another old towel.
“I am fine.”
“Alright, so what’s eating you?” She asked, taking his glasses and pushing the slightly wet fabric against his face.
“I said I am fine.”
“And that’s smellyface for ‘I am not okay.’” Nepeta replied, setting his glasses on the counter and crazy drying his hair. “Was something out there?” She asked, looking around his shoulder.
“No.” Equius said, far too quick as Nepeta pressed a palm against the door.
“Did you see what it was?”
“I… I felt something watching me. When I found Tavros, and even when I went out in the shower… Fur real, Equihiss. I furrgot until meow.” She started talking calmly, before her thumb found her teeth, nervous puns breaking out as she tried to see out the door’s window.
“Okay. Alright. It was probably an animal, or a human wandered too far. We are not entertaining the notion there is a harm wishing mythic out in these woods. That is preposterous, and I will not have the concept brought up in this house.” Equius’ voice was stone, calm and commanding as he ushered Nepeta away from the door, back to Tavros’ room. He welcomed the two wolves back, doing his best to put all the uno cards back in their pile.
Nepeta nodded anxiously, taking a deep breath as she tried to calm down during the storm.
The two vampires returned a little while after, reassurances no trees had fallen or animals had been hurt thus far.
“Now seems a good a time as any,” Equius observed, grabbing his satchel from the bed and bringing it to the floor. Carefully, he withdrew the dull silver flute, blue ribbon sitting snug along its diameter. Nepeta whistled, Kanaya and Karkat nodding appreciatively at the handiwork put into the instrument. When it was passed to Tavros, he took it gently, before pressing it against the fabric of his shirt. His shoulders shook the tiniest bit, and Tavros hunched himself up.
“I r-really can’t thank you guys enough.” He looked up, tears pricking his eyes, wild brown hair a mess. “L-Let me at least show my gratitude, in a way I can.” He wiped his eyes with the back of one hand, and gingerly held the flute with his other. Taking a deep breath, he raised the pipes to his mouth.
Each watcher did just that, waiting with bated breath until Tavros’ lips met the lowest pipe, letting ring a low and serene note. It filled the room, joined by another note, and another. He bounced, up and down from note to note as each had calmness breathe into the room, weights of stress melting away.
He played, and he kept playing, pausing only for breaths and timing as he sang through the instrument. It was peaceful, and serene.
Looking up at the end of his song, clapping and cheers met the boy’s ears as he looked down, an embarrassed smile decorating his face.
“I now understand how the act of communing works.” Kanaya observed, smiling. “Playing any instrument like that could easily lead one into submission.”
“So does the like tune of music or speed or stuff like that affect it?” Karkat asked, leaning on his chair back.
“Well, it’s kinda funny you’d, uh, y’know, ask that, cause actually...-”
The five talked, question after question and story after story, until the rolling thunder disappeared into the static. It was background white noise, their laughs and jokes filling the room and quickly the old and tiny house.
What the five failed to notice however, behind the whipping trees and whispering winds, were the eyes watching, counting the lights from each window, the blinds which opened and closed. The eyes that watched, and learned. The eyes that had not, and would not forget.
Tavros was the first to awaken that next damp monday morning, with a stomach growl and painful roll. He was awoken to the unwanted hot air drifting into his room, and a dry mouth which had him coughing in a matter of seconds. There wasn’t anyone at his bedside to offer anything, and with a deep breath, Tavros picked up the pan flute from beside the bed. He played a brief tune, red hot and a little fluttery, before a hand knocked on his door.
“Fuck you Nitram.” Karkat spoke groggily, pushing the door open.
“Hey man, you were the easiest to imagine a tune for.” Tavros replied, putting down his instrument. “I, well I uh, need something to eat.”
“I’ll look at what Zahhak brought back and bring you something that should be at least a bit edible.” Karkat replied, stepping up the hallway and into the kitchen.
Tavros adjusted his seat the slightest bit, pushing himself up into a half sitting position against the pillows and wall.
Karkat returned, plate in hand and lettuce on plate.
“That felt fuckin’ weird your horned prick.” He grumbled, shoving the plate at Tavros and pulling his chair over to beside the bed.
“Yeah. It was like, a few little tunes that got my attention and I had free control, but the music guided me. “ He gestured vaguely with his hands, before pointing. “Don’t use that shit on me.”
Tavros laughed, and fiddled briefly with the plate before starting to eat. “If I have to, I have to.”
“Is that what it’s usually like?”
“From what people tell me, yeah. I only ever use complete control methods when, like, absolutely necessary. Never had to use them on a person.” Tavros pecked away at his lettuce, and munched as Karkat looked down. “So Karkat‘s your Mythic name?”
“Do you have a human fake name? Or do you-”
“It’s called a deadname for a reason fuckstick.” Karkat snapped. “If I get caught I can answer to Max.”
Tavros raised one hand in self defense. “Hey man, vamps are special compared to use born mythics.”
“You sound like Equius, saying ’mythic’ like it means anything.” Karkat sighed, sticking his fingers in his hair and shaking them, hoping to straightening it out. “If you call me my deadname I’ll kill you myself, broken legs or not.”
“Ouch.” Tavros spoke, finishing his plate. He put the dish on the nightstand, and rolled his shoulders. “Don’t mean to press my luck, but uh, you mind helping a guy get some kinda support?”
“You’re pressing your luck.”
“Damn. Guess I’ll just have to pick up my handy dandy flute and-”
Karkat rose from the chair, disappearing for just a moment before returning and pelting Tavros in the face with a couch pillow. He laughed, a small snort before Karkat helped lift his left leg up to nestle the pillow beneath it. Tavros hissed and winced, setting the now swollen limb down. His hips were displaced and the Satyr laid back down completely now, looking up at Karkat and smiling sheepishly.
“Fuck off.” He grumbled, stomping out of Tavros’ room and crossing his arms over the black sweatshirt he was wearing. Karkat ascended the stairs to his room, pausing as he passed by the mirror next to Kanaya’s door. There he stood, mess of black hair and olive skin, newly red eyes staring back as he looked himself over. He was the same, but different eyes seeing him same self as different as he felt.
He looked like his brother, uncontrollable hair and peering eyes. The spots and freckles around his eyes, thin scar tracing the curve of his right cheekbone from a stupid fistfight his brother had to save him from- every time Karkat saw his reflection all he could see was him, never himself.
In his clothes he saw his sister, and that just made him remorseful, sadness burning in his heart. She got out. He died. The last thing he wanted to do was think of her and that night. He blinked once, and then twice, and couldn’t help the emotion bubbling to the surface.
But eventually, he moved on. He returned to his room and settled back into his unkempt bed, draping a blanket over his face and tried to ignore the sinking feeling setting in his stomach. He had a name, and he had a family. And then he didn’t.
Karkat would not be getting out of bed until he had to.
Meanwhile, a certain girl found herself a little high on energy, and low on pocket change. So doing what she knew, she donned her green jacket and knocked on Equius’ door. “Hey! Stinkyface!” Karkat had finally ascended the steps and Nepeta knew a chance when she saw one.
The young man opened the door, peering down at his companion. “What are you doing.”
“I wanna go pick a fight!”
“I think I need to take you on a walk or something of the like, you seem to be going soft in the head. Have you drank water recently?” He asked, smallest smile on his lips as he tilted her jaw up, scrutinizing her dark skin. “Maybe you’re like a pet who needs to be let out at least twice a day. Do you want to go for walkies, Nepeta?” He asked, pouting his lips patronizingly.
>“Eq, you moron!” Nepeta laughed, jumping back and rubbing her chin against her jacket shoulder. “Come on, I feel like I could win something today.”
“We will see about that. I still hold my best friend privilege of intervening if necessary.”
“And I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
After checking with Tavros the pair left the small shack, small pleasantries exchanged as they walked the well worn path towards town. The afternoon sun was getting hot, shinning through the tree branches and casting short shadows as they walked. A quick breeze drew their attention, whipping Nepeta’s jacket and Equius’ hair to turn them off the path.
Nepeta whistled, and finger combed her messy hair. “Jeez- usually that doesn’t start until fall,” She looked down, straightening her jacket until movement caught her eye. “Woah, is that a bird?” Dropping carefully to a squat, Nepeta reached into the shrub at her side. She withdrew quickly, cursing about the bush’s thorns until she resolved herself to her fate.
Pulling back, she did indeed find a bird, frantic but languid movements juttering through it. One of it’s wings seemed to be bitten through, and the poor thing was still trying to fly.
“What coulda done this Equius? What’s that cruel?” She mumbled, setting it back down in the bush, hoping it would soon surrender to the inevitable.
“Who knows.” His voice was quiet, watching the bird flutter and sputter. Nepeta rubbed any thorns off her arm, while the other end of the bush caught her companion’s attention.
Paw prints led to the side of the bush, large and deep in the mud, frantic from some sliding. Fur seemed to be lodged in the spines, but that he did not say.
“Come along. If the animal attacked recently we shouldn’t try to provoke it. We should go.” His voice was stone, and taking his friend’s wrist he walked.
Chapter 4: Chapter 3
Finally, an update. Hopefully the next one will be quicker but alas. A small good morning persent for my wonderful friends.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Spitting onto the ground, brandishing her new black eye and bruised stomach, Nepeta grinned.
“Told you I could win something.”
Equius watched her hesitantly, but when she whined up at him he smiled weakly. “And you are sure you are alright.”
“One hunnit-percent!” Her words ran together from excitement. “They’ve seen me fight and they still think they can win.”
The two were walking away from one of Nepeta’s betting fights, Nepeta and Equius thirty dollars richer. They fell into a silence as they walked, Nepeta’s of pride as she pulled her hair into the small ponytail she could muster. It was Equius who spoke next though.
“You will have to stay out of trouble on your own tomorrow.” He observed, helping straighten a curl and tuck it in Nepeta’s ponytail.
“You’re not going anywhere big are ya?” Nepeta looked up at him, and his heart skipped a beat seeing her eye, before swelling with pride.
“I have a date.”
“What?!” Nepeta stopped walking, looking up at him in awe. “You- have a date!?”
Equius scoffed, “Well yes, is that a shock? Well clearly- but that is not the point. Yes, I have a date tomorrow morning.”
“What’s their name?” The girl smiled coyly, returning to walking alongside him and pawing at her cleft lip scar.
“Her name is Ayako.” He spoke, smiling to himself.
“Is she asian?”
“Have you kissed her?”
“We have our first date tomorrow Nepeta. First.” He adjusted his sunglasses and gave her a side glance.
“Hasn’t stopped you before.” She mumbled.
“Rude and uncalled for.” He spoke, jabbing a finger in her face like a displeased cat owner. When she jumped up to bite his finger he drew back.
The both of them smiled, and without much more to do they wandered back to the house. Equius found his place working on the old blue truck, disposing of his shirt as he sweat enough to drown a man. Nepeta took herself inside, taking off her coat and setting up shop in Tavros’ room. It was a quiet morning, bleeding into a quiet afternoon and another quiet evening with Uno and Kanaya cooking for the first time in a while.
It was nice.
Equius left for his date the next morning, smiling nervously to himself. A cold shower didn’t seem to help his sweat but his hair pulled back did what little it could. He wore one of his older muscle shirts, one that cradled his muscles in a way he believed was attractive.
He arrived at the designated corner, and waited. He fiddled with the lip of his satchel, and when Ayako called him he almost physically jumped.
“Nice to see you’re not late Ezra.”
“I would never be late for such an important date.” He smiled at her, tracing her cheeks and large round sunglasses with his eyes. Her hair was up in two low buns, and with a rust red crop top showing her stomach and stretch marks; Ayako was beautiful. She took it upon herself to show off a bit, and when she laughed, Equius found himself in over his head.
“Well I’m glad. You seem like the type of guy I enjoy hanging out with.”
“I’m glad, I find your presence very enjoyable as well.”
“What about that cat girl?” She asked, taking Equius’ hand in her own. “I mean, you two clearly aren’t dating.”
“N-... Neah? She’s my friend, why does it matter?” He looked at her, wiping summer sweat off his brow with his free hand.
“Well, you’ve spent all your time in this shitty town with her.” Ayako replied, popping her lips. “I figure you can spend some time with me.”
“Are you trying to tell me you’d like a second date? Why Miss Ayako we haven’t had our first one yet!” He smiled, Ayako giggling and punching him in the arm.
“Come on, let’s just go get food or something.” She held onto his side, and pressed her cheek against his bicep. When he looked down at her, and she smiled up at him, he couldn’t help but smile in return.
“Kanaya!” Nepeta whined, crossing her arms. “I was gonna go out and fight again!”
“Wonderful, I can assure you. But you and I are both well aware my occupation reigns supreme in situations like this.” The vampire spoke, handing over the piles of clothes for Nepeta to take begrudgingly. Kanaya rubbed the girl’s black eye gently before speaking again. “I think it would be better for you to take a little break anyway. There’s no need to have two heavily injured houseguests this summer eve.”
“What are you, my mom?” Nepeta rolled her eyes, leaning away from Kanaya’s hands.
“In this situation, and aside from the species difference I am indeed your guardian. Also, look at my relationship to Karkat.” Kanaya smiled softly, and Nepeta laughed before sighing.
“Alright, fiiiine.” Nepeta rolled her shoulders and adjusted her grip on the clothes. Kanaya tacked the crumpled paper list onto the sleeve of the girl’s jacket and shooed her out of the hallway.
Her eye itched as she walked, making Nepeta stop for a brief moment outside Tavros’ door to rub it, before she kicked the door open gently.
“Yeah.” He looked up at the girl, anxiously rubbing his fingers. “I have a bad feeling though.” He chewed his lip, taking deep breaths of the hot summer air in the room.
“ ‘bout what?” Nepeta leaned on the door frame, grabbing the note from her sleeve and pushing it on the top coat in her other arm.
“Not sure. I, uh, guess that’s why it’s making me anxious.” He smiled weakly, rubbing the back of his neck as he sat. His legs were on their rests, and he hunched forward to keep himself from laying down.
“Well, I know the chair Karkat brought in here for Uno the other night has wheels, maybe a little mobility would help you get rid of some anxiety?”
“I’d appreciate it Nepeta.” He said, face lighting up the littlest bit. “Have you seen anything outside? W-When you’re in the forest I mean.” Nepeta set the clothes down and carefully planned her next words.
“No, nothing that could tell us what might have happened to your family. Sorry.” Her voice was quiet as she helped him into the old desk chair, Tavros grabbing onto the arm rests.
“It’s- ...okay.” He finished his thought after some more stimming. “I-Is it alright if I bring some birds to the window?” He asked rather suddenly, straightening his back in the chair.
“Birds? Uh, yeah I guess. Why? As long as you don’t bring them inside and don’t feed them our food.”
“Sometimes I can commune information from them. They can be rather good at just talking if you know how to listen.”
“Okay, yeah. Sure thing disney princess, have fun talking to birds.”
“Well I mean I’m technically talking to a wolf right now anyway.” He smiled, making Nepeta chuckle.
“True, true. Okay, yeah just double check with Kanaya when she comes downstairs next to be safe. She's usually really chill with harmless stuff like that.”
“Thanks. Sometimes I can help them when they’re hurt too.” Tavros grabbed the nearby nightstand, and pulled himself over to grab his pan flute.
“Did you- Did you maybe hear a bird that got attacked by a wolf or something?” She idly traced her scar as she spoke.
“Did you find a hurt bird?”
“Yeah, it was under a thorn bush. Looked like something bit almost straight through it’s wing.”
“I haven’t, but I can check the memory of some of the critters around here and see if they know anything.” Tavros tapped his fingers against the arm of the chair as he thought about it.
“Thanks. I figure, some big predator suddenly being introduced can’t be good for them or us.”
“Yeah, that’s definitely true. Okay, you can get back to your, ah, delivery service.”
“Thanks,” Nepeta spoke, taking the heap of clothes back in her arms. “Stay safe princess Tav, no running away with the next squirrel that climbs up the drainpipe.”
“Oh but Jameson was special!” He calls dramatically, running a hand through his curly mess of dark hair.
“He was a rodent!” Nepeta fake yelled, shaking her head and walking out of the room.
“A good rodent!”
She smiled and giggled, a small snort escaping her nose as she walked to the front door. Pushing it open and sliding past the screen door, Nepeta took a smooth breath of the fresh summer air, watching for just a moment as the breeze shook the trees. She eventually rushed down the stairs, hearing the green wind chime rustle as she walked the path into town.
The bird was gone from the bush when she reached it again, and with a heavy heart she found her way onto the sidewalk. The residential area was at the east end of the town, making her walk down the main strip, occasionally talking two word conversations with other passersby. More than once she felt a pair of eyes on her neck, or unexpected shadow streaking past her field of view but she trudged on.
Just past the more residential side of the strip, and tall familiar shape caught her attention. Equius was standing, a small snack in his hand as he stood beside the girl he had a date with, the two of them laughing and smiling.
Nepeta smiled too, and her heart warmed to see Equius happy. When he looked over--sunglasses meeting Nepeta’s eyes--he smiled brightly. There was a small wave before Ayako grabbed his hand, holding it in hers.
Nepeta stopped in her tracks, shrugging her arms to show her delivery and silently speak to him.
Want to help?
Her friend’s eyes widened momentarily, and he was about to nod as Ayako spoke to him, tapping his chest. She seemed to talk to him more, getting what Nepeta recognized as a blush, and Nepeta knew she wasn’t the priority right now. He gave a sad smile and a shrug, shook his head and let Ayako take him into a small jewelry boutique.
Nepeta watched silently, but held onto her smile. It was nice the two seemed to be getting along. She couldn’t fight the accusing stare she caught in the reflection of the boutique door though.
Nepeta could only assume it was the anxiety from the walk.
It was one delivery, then the other, and soon her hands were clean aside from the crumpled note. They intertwined one another, fingers tracing cuticles and nails as she walked back home the long way. Nepeta bit her lip, munching and nibbling as she walked and traced her fingernails in an attempt to distract herself.
Back at the diamond house however, things were slightly smoother for the time being. Tavros had beat the two vampires at uno, and was propped on his chair leaning onto the slanted open window frame as he watched the birds slowly settle outside and on the trees.
His nerves ate at him, fingers gently tracing the feathers of one of the creatures as he sat. When the further away birds began to fly away however, he began to notice. And soon, the petty niggle at the back of his mind began to grow. And when he played a few notes on the flute, leaning as best he could out of the window, the niggle changed.
“It’s a hurt animal,” he spoke to no one, closing his eyes and playing stronger. The feeling changed, and he listened. It was bleeding heavily, from what it seemed and closing his eyes, Tavros wheeled himself best he could to the door of his room, leading the creature closer.
When Nepeta opened the door and entered the house she almost tripped over the wheels of his office chair.
“Tav, what the hell dude?” She jumped over his extended legs, brushing off her jacket and rolling up the sleeves.
He pulled the flute away from his lips just long enough to speak, eyes still closed. “There’s a hurt animal out there. Trying to bring it over here.”
“Alright, once you get it here I guess I can help.” Nepeta replied, sitting on the back of the worn out couch, watching as Tavros’ fingers moved deft and quick.
Soon enough there was a small thud on the porch, followed by the creak of the screen door opening.
“That it?” Nepeta asked, hand on the doorknob. “Is it gonna attack me?”
“Yes and no.” Tavros replied this time. “Let’s just get it in here.”
“Glad you feel at home enough to boss me around.” Nepeta breathed, pulling the door opening and choking on a scream as a definitely human shaped body fell onto her.
“Tavros what the hell is this?!” She yelled, careful to hold up the woman, hand reaching her back and finding the muscle bloody and stained.
“U-U-Uh- I-I don’t know!” The flute in his hands was dropped to the ground, reaching out to try and steady the woman now draped on Nepeta.
“Oh fuck- Kanaya! We have an injured!” Nepeta yelled, less steady than she would have liked. “Jesus fuckin’ christ-- we have a badly hurt woman here-!”
Kanaya was down the stairs in a flash, silent as she helped move the unknown patient onto the couch Tavros had occupied not too long ago.
“Nepeta, Tavros, what the hell is going on?! I am not running a hospital here!”
Nepeta jumped back, flailing her arms and holding herself. “I don’t fucking know, blame him!”
“I thought it was an animal!” Tavros defended. He rolled closer to the couch, hands shaking as he reached out. “What is she bleeding from?” His voice shook as he looked at the blood stained and shredded on her back.
Kanaya smacked his hand away, snarling. “Tavros! I knew you were a mythic but I had no idea you were an idiot! We don’t know if this is a human!”
“So what if she’s a human!”
“Will you two just shut up and stop her from bleeding out?!” Nepeta screamed, rocking back and forth.
Kanaya and Tavros stared each other down for a few moments, before Kanaya finally caved, snapping her body to lean over the woman. She was peeling the stained fabric from her back as the injured party seemed to dip back into lucidity with a visceral snarl. It snapped Nepeta from her panic though, bringing her over to crouch beside the unfortunate guest.
For the first real moment the residents of the house took a look at her, tall and slightly rounded, dark complexion but light skinned much like Nepeta. Her hair was a similar auburn, long and wavy compared to Nepeta’s rabid curls. And when another snarl left her bloodied lips, Nepeta repeated it almost identical in tone and pitch. She purred, rumbled in unspoken words that had Kanaya freeze for a moment.
“Nepeta-” Tavros tried to ask, question being outspoken by Kanaya.
“She’s been tattooed.” Looking over her bare back, the woman was clearly and very painfully tattooed, bold black letters in both what appeared to be english and some form of seadweller imprinted on her skin. The brown skin inflamed and burning with blood and just cleansing liquid oozing from her.
Nepeta and Tavros jolted over, looking at the pained muscle.
“Fuck-” Both spoke, Nepeta stepping back rather quickly.
“Alright, Nepeta, retrieve my most gauze like fabric now, Tavros, consider you pan flute confiscated for the time being.” Kanaya spoke, peeling back the final segment of fabric.
Nepeta followed instructions, and when she returned Kanaya cleansed and wrapped the woman’s back.
“The both of you, eyes on her until she wakes up.” Kanaya reprimanded, mouth almost a snarl. “Mary, mother of Joseph,” she stepped off, up the stairs to presumably Karkat’s room based on the mumbled yelling from approximately his area.
“She looks so much like me,” Nepeta said, sitting on the ground next to the patient.
“Y-Yeah...” Tavros mumbled, rolling his office chair close to her. “Do you think that means-?”
“I mean maybe- hell, I don’t remember specific names of any of my siblings, or even really who they are.” Nepeta seemed to vibrate with energy, a mix of fear and excitement. “She doesn’t have mom’s lip.”
“Lip? That scar?” Tavros mumbled. “I wasn’t sure if that was a-”
“Y-yeah. My mom has a cleft lip, Eq- well Eq and the vampires chipped together to help me get my surgery. Just a scar now.”
“Can I finish like a single sentence Nepeta holy shit.” Tav spoke, grabbing Nepeta’s ruffled jacket and tugging. “But you think she might be related to you?”
“Y-Yeah.” She stuttered this time, chewing her fingertips. The woman mumbled in her sleep, moving the smallest bit. “Oh SHIT Equius!” Nepeta yelled, leaping to her feet and heaving her torso half through the doorway, throwing open the screen door.
Equius! I need you back at the house right meow! With a good measure she shifted, giving a long and loud howl before returning back inside.
“Shit’s getting complex around here.” She mumbled, her fingers in her mouth yet again.
Equius was smiling dopily when he eventually stepped into the house, summer sun close to setting as he undid his ponytail, walking into the tiny kitchen and only stopping as he reached out the window to unlock the icebox. Sprinting back into the main room Equius’ arm was pointing before he could think of anything else.
“NEPETA EXPLAIN THIS WOMAN ON THE SOFA-” And much to his discomfort Tavros and Karkat were the first two to reach the hallway, Tavros raising the back of his chair to be revealed on the opposite side of the couch.
“I thought she was a wounded animal-”
“Nepeta says she might be one of her half siblings-”
“-And although we’re not sure-”
“-Just take a fuckin’ look at her.” The two young men spoke hastily over one another, vague hand motions and gentle elbows thrown at each other.
His very well stone face seemed to aide him in that moment, Equius standing almost perfectly still as they briefly half explained.
“...Alright, just-...Alright.” He eventually spoke, “Just- Where is Nepeta?”
“In her room.” Karkat replied. And with not more of an explanation or backwards glance, the musclebound young man knocked on the door deep in the hallway.
Tavros and Karkat looked at one another, before giving a shrug and returning to their own business.
When no voice came, his hand rested gently on the doorknob, pushing the door open.
She threw herself onto her friend, latching clawfirst around his shoulders in a tight hug. “Jeez you big smelly dummy, what took you so long?”
“Ayako requested aide in taking care of her younger siblings, one was ill which quickly spread to the others. The eldest of the children called her while we were eating and-” His voice died down and instead a hand reached up to press against Nepeta’s back. “It no longer matters. How are you doing? I heard that girl may-”
Nepeta seemed to almost shake on her friend, hands taking his shirt tight.
“Does that mean-?” Her voice shook, before being shushed by Equius’ deeper rumble.
“No, it could just be coincidence. Nepeta we are going to be okay. We’re out.” His other hand found her hair, tussling the curls gently.
It took a very many long quiet moments before the two let go of one another. “I’m sure Maryam and Vantas will question her thoroughly when she awakens. We won’t go out until we know it’s safe. Now let me see your hands.”
“Anxious and scared, and I wasn’t here. Let me see.” He took her hands in his own, looking at the chewed nails and thrashed cuticles, some blood still present from her chewing.
“It’s fine.” Nepeta shrugged away, hiding and pressing her hands between her thighs. “‘S dumb.”
“It is not dumb.”
“Is too.” Nepeta grumbled, lolling her tongue out.
“It is not.” Equius replied, reaching for her hands as Nepeta jumped back.
“Oh are we doing this now?”
“Yeah!” She turned, running off to her bed and diving into the mess of clothes and blankets. “No smelly faces allowed in fort kickass!”
“Alright, I’ll just sit right here then.” Equius hummed, taking a seat on the foot of the thin mattress, toying with his hair. The summer heat had Nepeta sticking her head out of the pillow pile in a matter of minutes.
Nepeta nodded wistfully, looking up at her friend from the pile with a smile.
“So how’d the date go?” Her fingers wiggled around in her clothing pile, still sore as she watched Equius’ tan face go the smallest shade pink.
“It went beautifully as a matter of fact.” His companion’s head perked up, and he continued. “She’s wonderful Nepeta; powerful, beautiful, impressive, assertive,”
“Yeah that sounds about your type.” Nepeta spoke.
“But we have another date next week.”
“You think it’ll be a weekly thing?”
“I would like to sincerely hope so.”
Equius’ hand had found its way into Nepeta’s hair before they even realized. They unwound, deep breaths and eased nerves until Karkat found his way into the room.
And with that Nepeta was scrambling out of her blanket pile, Equius catching her before she hit the floor and the two of them at the doorway in a blink.
“What’s your name?” Kanaya spoke loud, loud enough for the meowrails to hear down the hall.
“What is your name?” She asked again.
“Tell me your name or I swear I will throw you back out into the dirt.”
Even more silence.
Nepeta started shaking.
“M-? Meow?” Kanaya’s voice faltered.
“I think she’s deaf-” Tavros spoke next, as Nepeta tried to heave herself out of the doorway to no avail, Equius catching her with swears and grunts that Karkat started growling about.
The three in the room started bumping elbows to keep Nepeta from running out, while Kanaya and Tavros were learning sign language.
The woman’s hand shook, her eyes still half glazed as she gestured.
Tavros was the one to more quickly pick up her language. “M, E, U, L, I, N… Is that it? Meul- Meulin? Your name is Meulin?”
The woman, Meulin, nodded. Her hands moved quick and still shaky, and it wasn’t until Tavros grabbed it gently did she stop. “We can’t understand you.”
She shook her head, harder and harder and silent sobs left her lips in ways neither viewer could deny.
“Do you have a last name?” It was Kanaya who spoke; standing a fair distance away opposed to Tavros wheeled right beside her.
“Give her some time.”
“We don’t have time Tavros. We have to know why she’s here.”
“She’s injured, that can wait-”
“I will not let my family come to harm Tavros. Now what is your last name!” Kanaya finally snapped, throwing her arms out in a brief fracture of her composure.
Meulin shook her head, clutching to Tavros and weeping. “She can’t keep her eyes open. She can’t see the question.” Tavros was quiet in comparison to Kanaya’s roar.
Karkat’s voice was also quiet in comparison to the deafening silence that fell upon the other three house members.
“We just don’t know.”
“Nepeta, you need to calm down.” Equius still held an arm around her shoulders, keeping her from jumping over Karkat and legging it.
“You’re emotionally compromised you dunderfuck.” Karkat growled.
“Oh bite me Karkat.”
“The both of you need to calm down.”
“You just said it was Nepeta who needed the relaxative!”
“And now it’s the both of you!”
“Fucking hell, this whole thing is a mess!!” Karkat yelled, throwing his hands in the air and stomping out of the room, closing the meowrails in Nepeta’s room as he approached Meulin.
She still held onto Tavros’ torso, seemingly to only fall asleep on him. Kanaya could only pull over a stool and sit, rubbing the balls of her hands against her eyes.
“I said it once, and I will say it again. I am not running a fucking hospital here.”
Things were getting complicated.
hahahah,... posted without my beta reader seeing it finished. .. whoop s dont mind any fuck ups
Chapter 5: Chapter 4
Again posted at butt o'clock at night, and again posted without a beta reading! My two beta readers are out of wifi for the weekend, so pardon any screw ups you may see. This chapter is also extra long to make up for the last one being short, and my creativity has seemed to spike because I'm already ahead on the next part.
Comments and kudos much appreciated!
“Good morning sleepyhead,” Karkat grumbled as Meulin started to wake up once more. “It’s been almost a day. Hungry? Thirsty?”
She nodded slowly, trying to push off the couch before flinching and staying put. The gauze on her back felt like it was changed, and the grouchy Hispanic boy seemed to be genuine so she decided to stay. Was he human? No, she vaguely remembered a Satyr being here.
The boy got up from his seat, taking off out of her view as Meulin coughed.
“Mythic?” She asked, making the boy himself jump. Her voice was hoarse and broken but she spoke anyway.
“What the fuck!? You can talk?” Karkat meanwhile dropped the plastic cup in his hand and swore up a storm. “And I’m not fucking looking at you so you can’t even ‘hear’ me. Fuck.” Karkat nodded his head in an extreme and obvious manner so even from the kitchen Meulin could see. “Yes I’m a mythic.”
After he threw a towel over the water puddle he returned with a large cup of water with a straw which he put on the ground next to Meulin. “Vampire.”
“There’s another vampire here, and we’re housing a Satyr.” Karkat idly scratched his neck, hoping he could start his own line of questioning.
Meulin nodded weakly, closing her eyes and relaxing.
“Hey no no no I’m not done here yet-” Karkat finger combed some of her hair, until she ‘woke’ back up. “Why are you here? What happened?”
Meulin shrunk away from his touch as she read his lips, and balled her fists.
“You have to tell me.”
“An old… friend… of mine. He- We- fuck.” She shook as she tried to explain and Karkat did his best to comfort her. “He’s a highblood. We were together and suddenly I was chucklevoodooed and then I just remember waking up here.” Her voice was loud, but unintentionally so. She couldn’t control it.
“Please don’t throw me back out there please I still don’t know why he betrayed me or even what he did to me and-”
“Meulin, calm down.” Karkat’s voice was rough and gravelly in a way Meulin’s voice partially echoed and he did what he could. “You know what Mythics are, What Mythic are you? Or did you just learn from your highblood?” He asked, the woman hunching her shoulders and shaking her head. “Okay, do you know a werewolf?”
She nodded, moving her arms to lay on them as she tried to avoid looking at Karkat.
“Are you looking for this werewolf?”
She shook her head now.
“Were you sent by one of the east or west clans?”
Head shake. “I came on my own.”
“Can we trust you?” Kanaya asked, lifting herself from the dark hallway, previously shrouded by the dim light.
“Kanaya she can’t hear you.”
“Fuck.” She walked over, standing next to Karkat and asking again.
“I don’t want to hurt any of you. I just need- I just need a place to stay.”
“Alright. Fine.” Kanaya beckoned Equius from the hallway next, tall wall of muscle standing a fair distance away. “Do you know this man?”
Equius’ eyes bore into her, shrouded in his sunglasses until Meulin seemed to stare in return.
“West?” She mouthed, taking note of his tan skin and long black hair.
Equius didn’t budge, watching with the stone face he had mastered.
“He looks familiar, but not him specifically.” Meulin eventually responded, pushing her hair out of her face.
The two vampires turned, so that Meulin could no longer hear them. “If she doesn’t know Equius then she couldn’t know Nepeta, they ran away together.”
“She never answered about being a Mythic, she could simply have ill intentions for Nepeta and only Nepeta.”
“Why would she be tattooed? This is serious shit Kanaya, they wouldn’t just kidnap a shapeshifter or a hybrid and fuck them up.”
“Unless they did something to deserve the pain.”
The both of them sighed, rubbing their faces and cursing their luck.
“Equius, you may go.” Kanaya said, shooing Equius away from their second unexpected guest. He left with all the grace he could muster, vanishing back into Nepeta’s room with an almost silent click.
Nepeta herself was a human shaped ball of nerves in her room, chewing her fingertips and pacing when her best friend returned. He promptly and gently, smacked her hands from her mouth and stuck a hand in her curls to massage her scalp.
It was a small awkward silence until Equius spoke again.
“She looks like you.”
“That’s what’s really fuckin’ scary.” She mumbled.
“Do you want to take a walk?” Equius rested his hand on Nepeta’s shoulder, the scar on her shoulder blade more specifically. “We can sit at the beach and watch the sunset.”
“We missed the sunset dipshit, it’s like midnight.”
“Watch your language, good lord. Are you really passing on going to look at the sky?” He smiled softly, releasing her hair from his hand.
“You know what, no, I’m not. Let’s go.” Nepeta picked up the discarded olive jacket, shrugging it on. “Let’s take some time to watch the stars.”
With a few more general steps, the two were climbing out of Nepeta’s small window, sliding the broken window back down as far as it could before disappearing into the forest.
The water lapped gently at her feet, Nepeta’s shoes discarded at the rockline as Equius watched his friend breathe in the salty air. The cool breeze and retreat from the blazing summer sun did wonders for the both of them, Equius sitting and staring up at the stars.
“Why do you think everything has begun to go haywire?”
“We’ve been lucky. ‘Bout time our luck furricking run out.” Nepeta mumbled into the waves.
Equius responded with a noncommittal grunt, which had Nepeta laugh.
“First Tavros, and now Meulin. I cannot help but think that maybe something’s going on around our forest.”
“I’ve been feeling like something’s been watching me for a while.” Nepeta responded, kicking a foot through the small waves that met her foot. “The bird, remember?”
“Yes, that too. I felt as though something was watching me in the rain the other day.” Equius spoke. He sighed. “You and I cannot seem to find peace.”
It was quiet. Nepeta spoke moments later.
“Hey, about Ayako-” She turned back to her friend, as light bloomed from the ocean.
“Nepeta- seadwellers!” Equius ran forward, grabbing his friend by the wrist and heaving her back to the rocky shoreline as the mentioned beasts appeared just beneath the water. Black hair encapsulated most of them, their bodily bioluminescence giving them away in the darkness of night and sending malicious shadows across their faces.
The two on shore were breathing heavily, Equius holding Nepeta tight in his arms, refusing to let go even many moments after the cruel seadwellers vanished into the depths.
“We need to go home. Immediately.”
“Yeah. Let’s go.” Nepeta spoke shakily as she pushed away from her friend. Shaking her feet dry and sliding on her worn down sneakers again, Equius pulled his hair down from his ponytail much to Nepeta’s teasing pleasure. She appreciated it, something to distract her and give her a reason to smile. “Hey, what do you think about Meulin?” Nepeta rubbed her jacket sleeve, walking up the forest path--her other hand in Equius’ to ensure they wouldn’t get separated.
“I do not believe she is human. She,” He knit his brows for a moment. “She mouthed ‘West’ at me when I was the bait.” He finished, letting the conversation fall silent as his cleats crunched leaves and twigs beneath his stride.
“They’re the only ones that call each other that, right?” Nepeta asked, adjusting her shorts, desperate to find anything for her hands to do.
“To the best of my knowledge.”
“So then she must be one of my siblings!”
“But she also did not recognize me.”
“So?” Nepeta’s grip on his hand weakened once they were again on the flat side, closer to the diamond house.
“You and I were in the same position Nepeta, we we prize children of each side, the best for what they had, the peak. If she had ever come into contact with the West, she would have recognized me.” Equius let out a sigh, and just shook his head--as though Nepeta could even see it in the dark of night.
“Mleeeehhhhh,” Nepeta spoke after many moments of silence. Equius let out a stifled chuckle, and Nepeta herself giggled at his reaction. “Thanks for helping me unwind with this whole thing,” She spoke real words, squeezing Equius’ hand as the small shack came into view once again.
He waited until the were at the house before responding. “It’s never a problem Nepeta.” Letting go of his friends hand, prompting her to jump back up and wiggle through her small bedroom window.
“Going to work on the car?” She asked, popping her head out the window close to a minute later.
“Yes, working with him usually helps ease my own tensions after all.”
“Yeah yeah, I’ll either be drawing or harassing Tavros, call if you need anything.” Nepeta spoke, giving Equius a pat on the head before returning inside. Equius smiled fondly, walking over to the rusted old pickup truck, sitting in the bed for a few moments looking up at the sky. The night sky shone, flashed with stars and swirling space.
He even reached a hand up, tracing the constellations he remembered his brother talking about. The summer sky held Cancer and Orion, and Equius thought he might even be able to see Leo coming in a few weeks. That meant Nepeta’s birthday, he reminded himself. He put his arm down, landing on one of his wrenches.
Equius’ brows knit, looking down from the stars at the bed. His tools had been removed from the toolbox, strewn about the truck bed making him mumble a half-swear. “Mother of-” He gruffed, crawling up and grabbing the various wrenches and bolts, shoveling them into the box for reorganisation. “I’ll have to remember to consult Vantas on how my work area has been invaded.”
A small breeze caught his attention next, bushes just behind him seeming to move and sway just too much for the wind. He stopped, staying still and quiet. Slowly, he turned his head, only to see the treeline a void of black. “Something does not feel right.” He whispered, snapping the toolbox shut--he got most of the tools, the newer and more useful ones at least--and taking it tight in his hand. With a few steps he was opening the screen door at the back of the house, sweating through his shirt in the suddenly unbearable summer heat. His hand slipped on the handle before the forest again spoke to him, having him throw the door open, the wood flying around the hinge and hitting the inside wall.
Tavros and Kanaya jumped, watching as Equius hurriedly slammed the door again--thankfully closed this time--and pressing his back against it. “Do you even know what time it is?” Tavros grumbled, rubbing his eyes.
“Half past stress.” Equius replied, dropping the tool box and stomping past Kanaya at the counter, retreating to his room.
The Satyr and Vampire exchanged gazes, Tavros checking in again as Meulin thankfully was still sleeping. Being deaf seemed to have it's perks.
Over the next few days, Meulin seemed to open up more to the house, Tavros and Karkat especially, and through one or two accidental bump ins to the bathroom she had even interacted with Equius. Nepeta had managed to avoid brush ins, Karkat and Equius were deathly sure of it.
Close to a week later, she spoke to Kanaya.
“I think you can take off my gauze.”
“Are you sure?” Kanaya knelt beside her, giving water and daily breakfast. The woman nodded, pushing up to a sitting position and hooking her shoulders over the back of the couch. With careful work, Kanaya began the peeling, removing the dead and dying cells as it indeed appeared most of, if not all of, the inflation and pus had healed down to it’s normal dark skin. The final segment came off with a sickening wet pop, and Meulin’s hard breathing was clear as day.
“Tavros,” Kanaya called, desperate to hide the way her voice was shaking. “I need you.”
The young man himself wheeled through the hall, haphazardly stroking his hair as he approached. With a yawn, he started to speak. “What’s u- Oh gods.” His voice mellowed, as did his person as he saw the black ink forced into Meulin’s skin, tattooed words and phrases seared into her skin. It looked painful, harsh curves and slices in her flesh.
“Do you know what language this is?” She asked quietly, keeping a hand on Meulin’s shoulder to tell her to keep still.
“S-Seadweller? I’m not sure.”
“There are so many dialects-” Kanaya swore, “I’ll keep her still. Do you think you could take the notebook from the counter and imitate what you see? If the seas part well then we might be able to find a dweller who could translate.”
With a nervous nod, Tavros took off and scribbled down the strange lettering, tracing each lines thwice or even thrice, to cover how his hand was shaking. After he finished, Kanaya applied small strips of fresh gauze to the still inflamed areas, allowing Meulin to relax and turn around. She carefully leaned down on the tarp, relishing the couch cushions pressure against her back.
“What was it?” She asked.
“We believe it is seadweller. Afraid we can’t tell you much more than that, we can’t decipher it.” Kanaya knit her fingers together, taking a deep breath before Tavros wheeled over and showed her the scribbles. “Absolute nonsense.”
“Maybe we could get someone to go the waters sooner rather than later?” Tavros suggested, drawing his pan flute. Kanaya nodded, and in a matter of moments Equius again stood in the hallway.
“You rang Nitram?” Equius stood still for a moment, before walking to the window and reaching out into the icebox. He still listened, and only missed the beginning of Tavros’ next sentence.
“- well, we need someone to go down and commune with the seawellers. See if they can tell us what’s been written into Meulin’s back.”
“And you selected me.” Equius grumbled, taking a drink from his now full milk glass.
“Better you than me.” Tavros joked, shrugging his shoulders.
“Alright, I’ll do it. I assume you have a copy of the writing?”
With nary a pause for thought, Equius took the notebook and made his way back down to the water’s edge, enjoying the sunshine and breeze, which slowly began to pollute with salt as he stepped onto the rockline, before jumping down to the sand.
It took a few hours, the young man sitting on the sand and backpedaling whenever the waves threatened to reach him. When a glow began to appear in the water ahead of him, the sun had passed it’s high point.
A seadweller emerged from the water, short and dishevelled black hair that held a purple streak. His body ceased to glow as it was raised from the water, the seadweller pulling himself onto a rock covered mostly by the waves.
“Why hello there handsome.” It spoke, voice seemed to hang on the ‘W’. “Saw you hangin’ ‘round here last week.” He continues, seemingly alternating between eyeing up Equius and squinting to see him.
“Yes, hello. As much as I would love to engage in pleasantries, there is a reason I came to find one of your kind.” He neared the waterline carefully, extending the small notebook spread towards the violet creature. “Do you recognize this writing?”
“Straight to the point, eh lowblood?” He almost snarled, looking at the writing. “I recognize the version, ain’t spoken round here much.”
“What is it?”
“What do I get for tellin’ ya?”
Equius let out a huffed breath. “A pact. Names.” His hand shook, the paper going malleable in the sea breeze.
“It’s tropical seadweller, ikawai if I had to guess. I can’t tell you what it says but a few words, but maybe that’s just the shitty handwritin’.” He smiled, pushing up from the rock and admiring the sheen Equius’ muscles had acquired from being so close to the water’s edge. “What Mythic are ya?”
“We agreed on names.”
“You don’t gotta be an asshole about it, just wonderin’ if you were worth the dirt you walk on or not.”
“My name is Ezra.” Equius spoke, throwing out his fake name just to scrape out of the conversation quicker.
“Fat fuckin’ chance! We agreed on names. Spill it.” The seadweller’s fins flared, and he growled.
“Wonderful. If you’ll excuse me I have things to attend to.” Equius began his escape, he had collected his information and was ready to leave as he turned and leapt onto the solid earth.
“I order you to turn around and face me Equius.” Eridan growled, pulling himself further onto the rock and closer to Equius. He himself froze, legs disobeying his brain as he rotated back. “Good shitbrain. I think you’re one of the scumbags from around here. And I wanna know somethin’.
“You know that werewolf bitch that almost drowned in the river? Months and months ago?” He kept tripping over his ‘v’s, but Equius just froze.
“Oh so you do. Good. I was the one who attacked her.” He said, a fanged grin spreading as he watched Equius tense, hands clenching and unclenching. “I was the one who almost killed her, I was the one that tore her up.”
“You vile disgusting disrespectful slimy piece of-!” Equius was about to pounce, throw his body of bricks into the waves when somehow a hand grabbed his hair, retching him back, landing on the sand with the wind knocked out of him.
“You absolute festering idiot!” Kanaya roared, huffing and giving the young man a good kick to his side, before turning to Eridan. “And you!” Her skin started to glow, hair raising and eyes burning. “You don’t even want to know what I will do to you if you don’t get the fuck out of here!” She yelled, taking two steps and reaching out before Eridan slipped down the rock, and disappeared into the waters.
“Maryam-” Equius started, beginning to stand as Kanaya gave him a shove back to the ground.
“Do you even have a brain?! He was trying to lure you into the waters!” Her arms were flying every which way, hair a mess and clothes wrinkled. She must have come out after he had taken too long, Equius would note later- after his brain began working again.
“He was the one who gave Nepeta her scar!” Equius screamed in return.
“Do you even know that for sure?!” She ground her teeth, before taking a deep breath. “That was a stupendously idiotic move Equius.”
“And you are not my mother.”
“No, and I pity the woman who was.” She replied, pulling him onto his feet. “Now tell me you at least got information from it.”
“He told me it was tropical seadweller, not normally spoken around these parts.” Equius snarled in return, wiping the sand from his shorts.
“Well we know it’s seadweller at least.” Kanaya again took a deep breath, followed by another. Her skin returned to its normal pigment, and she quietly combed her hair with her fingers. “Thank you for gathering the information. I would have gutted that filth on the spot. Sliced him in half and strangled him with his own tail.” She spoke, walking up to the rockline and stopping, pausing until Equius followed suit, ascending back to drier land.
They reached the diamond house, Equius entering first and aiming straight for Nepeta’s room, while Kanaya settled with Karkat and Meulin in the kitchen. Meulin was sitting at the counter, watching as Karkat messily attempted to cook something. It was enough to get Kanaya to smile, a small one that Meulin pretended she didn’t see.
Meanwhile, Equius closed the door to the small bedroom harder than he would have liked, taking a seat on the foot of Nepeta’s bed and crossing his arms.
“Eq?” His best friend spoke, scurrying over from the small desk she was drawing at. He was angry--that she could tell--and it wasn’t until she removed his sunglasses did Nepeta realize he was crying. “Oh Equius, what happened?” She slithered onto his lap, taming and petting his hair, patting his cheeks. “I can’t help you if you don’t help me first buddy.” She spoke soft, moving instead to wrap herself around him.
Equius’ arm moved many minutes later, jerking movements as one arm wrapped around Nepeta’s waist, the other hand moving up and landing on her shoulder blade, just above where he knew her scar remained.
“I’m here you big lug, I’m right here. I ain’t goin’ nowhere.” She mumbled, rubbing their cheeks together.
“You are not going anywhere.” He corrected, a cough following his speech.
“Hey, there’s my best friend.” Nepeta sung, leaning back just a bit to look Equius in the eyes. “Jeez you big moron, what happened?”
He didn’t respond immediately, nor did he ever. His mouth opened and all that left him was a tiny cry, a weak little thing that had Nepeta holding his head until he went soft, and laying him down on the bed.
“You don’t gotta talk about it if you don’t wanna, but I’m here Eq. I’m right here.”
Equius let himself fall asleep, and Nepeta followed not soon after.
It was a quiet morning following the day’s events, and it was Nepeta herself who managed to wake up early, the sun just peaking over the horizon. She snuck from her room and sleeping friend, closing the door with the smallest clink. She wanted to get him something to drink, he needed to be taken care of but what she wasn’t expecting was Meulin to already be awake.
The woman was standing, washing a dish in the sink when Nepeta noticed and froze, panicking. She was about to run back to the room, until Meulin turned to put away to bowl and saw her.
The two froze, Meulin dropping the plastic bowl onto the counter, as Nepeta could hear her own heartbeat thrumming in her ears.
“Oh my god, Nepeta! You’re alive! Nepeta oh my god!” She screamed, running over and throwing her arms around the younger girl, holding her tight and rambling so quick her words tripped over themselves. “Nepeta, mom and I, we thought you died, oh god how long have you been here? Why haven’t I seen you-”
Nepeta meanwhile couldn’t breathe, fear and Meulin’s arms gripping her like a vice. A small wheeze left her lips before she screamed. “Equius!”
It was a matter of seconds and thuds before he was sprinting, snarling and yelling He stopped for just a moment, seeing it was Meulin but that didn’t stop him from tearing her off of his friend.
Nepeta was frightened and overwhelmed, breathing was hard and Meulin started yelling, swearing at Equius for lying and not letting her hug her half sister, and it was again a matter of seconds until the other house members were awake and barrelling into the room.
Nepeta herself began crying as Equius and Meulin entered a screaming match, before Karkat and Tavros managed to pull them apart. It was Kanaya again who had to play mediator.
“Both of you, shut the fuck up ! We are going to do this, and do it my way!” Kanaya’s skin began to glow again, Equius mellowing out just slightly in Karkat’s grasp, as Kanaya moved to gently touch Nepeta’s arm. The girl flinched, and shook her head mumbling in fear and anxiety. Kanaya mumbled quietly in return, little reassurances as she guided Nepeta back to her room.
“Don’t you fucking touch my sister!”
“Don’t you dare think you have any right to her!” Equius snarled in response.
Kanaya eventually returned, empty arms before leading Karkat and Tavros to take the two arguing parties out front. Tavros stopped at the edge of the patio, Karkat throwing the two of onto the dirt, the both of them beginning to circle one another.
“You two can fight all you want, but know you will be licking your own wounds.” Kanaya spoke. “I will not help heal either of you, or condone you two fighting to the death in my house.”
“So what, you take ‘em out front so they can fight to the death in the front yard instead?” Karkat asked, looking over his shoulder at her.
“Yes.” She replied, watching as Equius was about to shift and fight, until Meulin seemed to understand.
“You’re- you are the bastard from the West clan!”
“Yes, Nepeta took me and we fled. To get away from the likes of you !”
“Oh god, we need to get you back, the clans are at each other’s throats, it’s a nightmare last I remember!”
“Take a look around Meulin,” Equius spoke, throwing his arms out to the surrounding forestry. The sun was rising anew. “There’s no ‘we’ for you.”
“Fuck.” She breathed, holding her side. “Fine, you’re right, fine. Just- Nepeta is my half sister, we have the same mother.”
“So you’re a werewolf.” Karkat noted, leaning on the banister of the porch.
“Explains why my communion worked.” Tavros noted to himself.
“Yes, but I’m not sure if I still am. I left a few weeks after Nepeta, I was sent to do recon and instead found my new mate, my highblood.”
“And we can see how well that turned out.” Karkat chimed in, limping his wrist in her direction.
“I haven’t shifted in years. I didn’t answer the mythic question because I’ve been a human. Just- Now that I know you’re both alive we can take you back, we can fix the warring tribes and-”
“We are never . Going back.” Equius growled, his shoulders rising. “Nepeta and I are free, we can be who we want. Nepeta wants to study art. And I will fight for her future.”
The girl seemed to stop, taking a light step back. “Study art? Since when did she like art?”
“She’s gifted. Draws day and night. It’s her special interest, she loves it to death.” Equius stood, relaxing from his fighting stance.
“Wow, I never would have thought.” Meulin’s voice went quiet. “... I guess… Well…Just, give me some time to process all this, could you? I-I... I don’t want to fight you.” Meulin returned to the porch steps, walking up the steps past Karkat and Tavros. She stopped briefly at Kanaya, bowing her head. “I apologize.”
Equius followed, instead going to check on his friend, still muttering a thank you as he passed the elder.
“Sometimes, you just have to let idiots be idiots.” Kanaya spoke, patting her skirt free of dust.
“You mean bygones be bygones?” Tavros suggested, watching Meulin take her seat on the couch.
“I like my version better.” Kanaya smiled.
Chapter 6: Chapter 5
“Nepeta, stop chewing your fingertips.” Equius said, gently pulling them out of her mouth.
“This is a lot of pressure right now, I understand.” He spoke slow and gentle, sitting on her desk top as she curled up on the bed. “But I promise we’re okay here. Nothing is going to happen, I won’t let her take you back.”
“I can’t keep fighting, I can’t fight them just because they’re weak, I can’t weed out the-”
“I know,” Equius interrupted her, moving and kneeling in front of the bed. “I know, and I won’t let her take you anywhere.”
“I mean your whole thing with Aya-” Nepeta was about to open up as Karkat’s unmistakable yell rang through the air, demanding Equius ‘get his sweaty ass out here.’ He stood carefully, grumbling before turning his gaze to Nepeta.
“I’ll be right back, I promise.” He left with naught a pause for thought, and Nepeta watched him.
“Did you fucking tell a human where we live?” Karkat asked, taking a half swipe at Equius’ chest and catching his fist in the fabric.
“No, not anyone import-” Equius himself was cut off this time, a loud knocking on the front door drawing the room’s attention.
“Ezra!” A voice called through the wood, having Equius shove Karkat away and rush to the door.
“Ayako!” He said, pulling the door open and seeing the asian girl standing, one hand on her hip.
“Did you forget we had a date today?” She asked, eyebrows pricking. “It’s not like you to forget, I was sitting at the diner for forty five minutes you asshole.”
“It-” Equius’ hand slipped just slightly on the door, pulling it close to his side to obstruct Ayako’s possible view inside the house. “It seemed to have slipped my mind, yes, things have been a little hectic around here the past few hours,” He ground his teeth, watching as Ayako slowly crossed her arms.
“Well I still expect you to get out here, I had something important to ask you.” She seemed to soften, and rub her waist.
Equius turned back, glancing into the house before stepping onto the porch and quickly but subtly closing the door. The sun was close to setting now, catching Ayako’s highlight and having Equius smile.
“I was, well I was thinking, since we’ve gone out three times… Maybe we could be like, a thing now?” She looked down, before meeting his gaze directly. “I’d like to have you as my boyfriend.” She smiled softly, before uncrossing her arms and reaching for Equius. “Ezra, I really like you, okay?”
He smiled, heat creeping into his cheeks. “Oh Ayako that would be fantastic!” He reached out taking her hands in his own, smiling. “I would be honored to be your boyfriend!”
“Oh thank god, I was worried after the diner.” She said, looking up at him, before pulling her hands back. “Let’s go out to celebrate! The girls at the diner might skin you alive though.”
“They were invested in our date?”
“I may have gotten a little anxious after the half hour mark.” Ayako smiled, reaching and sliding her arms around Equius’ neck. “But I think they’ll be happy now that I know you’re mine.” She breathed, pulling him in for a kiss, soft and slow.
The young man tensed just briefly, before nudging himself down slightly. His hands met her waist, holding like the delicate flower she reminded him of, and after a few seconds the two broke away.
“You are amazing.” Equius spoke quietly, feeling his glasses slide down the bridge of his nose.
“And lucky.” She replied, glancing just briefly towards movement in a window. Her gaze meet Nepeta’s, the girl perched at the window. “And yours.” She spoke again, taking her date into another kiss, eyes still locked with Nepeta before she closed them slowly, digging her nails just barely into Equius’ tank top. Nepeta vanished from the window when she opened her eyes. “Let’s go, okay?”
Equius nodded, the two taking hands and walking off from the porch back towards town.
Nepeta took a few shy steps into the hallway, eyes still red and fingers in her mouth when her gaze met Karkat’s. He sighed, walking over and slowly beginning to talk.
“Equius left.” He spoke. “Are you okay?”
Nepeta nodded, chewing and chewing and chewing, before stopping to talk. “So, she is my sister after all.”
“Yeah, guess we just keep cracking open cans of worms. This is some sift kind of matryoshka doll of fuckery we’re in.” He swore, crossing and uncrossing his arms. “Do you feel well enough to see her?” He idly patted his legs, for some reason he seemed to be emotionally involved, and Nepeta took notice.
“I guess?” Her voice was slightly hoarse. “I mean, I don’t even really remember her, I cat really give her what she’s looking fur.” Nepeta mumbled, going back to her fingers.
“I know you must be anxious, but maybe you should just give it a shot.” Karkat said, awkwardly patting the shoulder of Nepeta’s coat.
The girl nodded, stepping closer to the main room, hugging the wall as she saw Kanaya and Tavros talking to Meulin. She could hear what they were saying, but it just sort of faded away behind her heartbeat.
Meulin herself looked over, seeing Nepeta and opening her mouth to speak, before closing it. The other two seemed to finally take notice.
“Let’s let them leave this be.” Kanaya spoke, taking Tavros by the shoulder and wheeling him out of the room. Nepeta shied forward, taking a seat on the counter stool, looking down.
“H-Hello.” She spoke nervously.
“I can’t hear you with your hands in your mouth.” Meulin spoke quietly, having Nepeta jump, shoving her hands into her lap.
“Hello!” She said again, forcing herself to look at the woman sitting on the couch. She seemed to get the Tavros treatment, a new black shirt and simple gray skirt Nepeta never noticed until now.
“It’s nice to see you again.” Meulin spoke slowly, a weird smile on her face that Nepeta found unsettling.
“I don’t really, remember you....” Nepeta gave up and looked away.
“That’s okay. I’m a fair bit older than you, and I was helping run things, you were still a pup.” She folded her hands, looking down now for a few moments. “I heard you like art.”
Nepeta perked up just slightly, smiling. “I love it. Drawing is a blast and as long as I keep practicing I can get better and better!” She let a real smile go, one Meulin returned. “What do you enjoy?”
“I write, occasionally. Mainly just storytelling stuff.”
“That’s cool. I guess you got that from mom, huh?”
“You remember Mom’s stories?”
“Oh they were the best! She always talked about the werewolf and the-”
“Vampire!” They both said at the same time.
“And their doomed love, their fights for honor, valor, and protection,” Nepeta went on and on, spewing out everything she could remember.
“Did you ever hear the ending?” Meulin asked, moving over slightly on the couch. “I remember her telling me just before she found you left.”
Nepeta shook her head, the smallest bit of anxiety bubbling up in her chest at the mention of her escape.
“Would you like to?”
Now she nodded, slowing meandering to the far edge of the couch, finding her left index finger between her teeth.
“After the Vampire had found his stranded lover, his wonderful rose injured and hurt,”
She had her Mother’s voice, Nepeta realized.
It was close to two hours later when Karkat emerged into the main room, eyeing up the two forms on the couch. Nepeta had somehow been laid across the couch, her head resting on Meulin’s nap as she was asleep. Meulin was sitting, talking to herself and combing a hand through Nepeta’s curly hair. He approached slowly, thinking ahead and answering Meulin’s question before she could stop telling her story.
“Everything’s fine, and no I’m not going to stop you. Just checking in.”
The woman nodded, pausing between sentences. She continued, soft words Karkat strained himself not to hear, for personal reasons. Nepeta turned in her sleep, Meulin letting her.
It was heartwarming, Karkat realized. He watched--in the way Karkat would, he got a glass of water and accidentally overfilled it as he was half watching the girls, half pretending not to--and buried his face in his sweater when he felt pangs in his chest. Carefully, he also began lighting a few candles. No electricity could be a bit of a burden sometimes, but Meulin seemed to appreciate the sentiment of watching Karkat light candle after candle.
“Thank you for understanding.” Karkat spoke, drawing Meulin’s attention from her little fantasy. He walked over, setting the cup on the floor next to where Meulin sat.
“I want what’s best for her.” She spoke. “I just- I thought that the east clan was what was best for her. When we realized she was different we didn’t understand, she was hurt and hurt and pushed away and forced into doing things she didn’t want,” Meulin stopped for a moment before continuing. “I didn’t see that our Nepeta wasn’t the real one.” She smiled softly, nuzzling Nepeta’s scalp with her hand making the girl let out a small rumble.
“This is the only Nepeta I know so I can’t judge,” Karkat rubbed the back of his neck. The evening breeze rattled the wind chime out front in the distance. “But she seems authentic. She’s an idiot sometimes but a good kid.”
“You don’t look much older.” Meulin smiled, seeing Karkat go vaguely pink.
“Hahaha, make fun of the guy who can’t age normally, very funny.” He growled and grimaced, but seemingly just for show since both knew under his sweater neck he was smiling.
The two took in the nice silence, occasionally interrupted by the wind chime or the faint rumbling of cicadas.
They were exceptionally loud, Equius noticed as he lumbered home. He carried a small bag holding a few treats for most of the house members, following the well worn path back to the small house in the moonlight. Step after step, he was walking up the porch when a piece of paper caught his attention. It was almost a kind of parchment, a single word smeared onto the page.
F O U N D
It was stuck into the siding of the house with a knife, one Equius left up as he tore down the page. It infuriated him, his hands began shake and forehead sweat until he threw open the door to the house, letting out a yell.
“You sick son of a- I told you you weren’t taking us!” He slammed the paper down on the small table, Karkat and Nepeta leaping into the air and Meulin looking up confused.
“Equius what the fuck!”
Karkat jumped to his feet, pulling him back away from the table. “Fucking hell calm down!”
“I will not calm down Vantas, look! She sold us out!” Equius stepped forward again, bumping arms and shoulders as Karkat kept him from nearing Meulin.
“I didn’t do a damn thing!” Meulin retaliated, flexing her hands into claws.
“Say that again! I dare you!”
“Found?” Nepeta spoke, reading the paper and rubbing her jacket fabric.
“She’s sold us out. It’s as simple as that. They know where we are, we’ve been found.” Equius snarled, standing still and letting Karkat take a break from wrestling him.
“I didn’t! I would never!” Meulin was shocked, offended even as Equius just came into the house slinging mud.
“Well then what could it mean?!”
“I don’t know!”
The two were yelling again, Nepeta sinking back and chewing her fingers to distract from the volume.
“Alright that’s it! The both of you shut the hell up! Equius! She’s just as shocked as we are, you think she could have done something like this?” Karkat gave a final hard shove, sending Equius into the mouth of the hallway.
“She lied to us already Vantas. She’s shown herself to be an actress.” Equius words were vile and sharp.
“I would never hurt Nepeta like that!”
“Was that not your exact plan hours ago?”
“Not something like this.”
Drawing a fist, Equius was about to charge as his arm fell, face going blank. In the silence the group could hear the music fade in, slow and thrumming beats that only got louder as Tavros wheeled himself from his room. His fingers were moving with purpose, the pan flute in his hands. Equius moved not soon after, awkward and unnatural steps leading down the hall into his room. Karkat ran after, locking his door from the outside.
Tavros took a breath, wiping sweat from his brow. “Glad I could, uh, help.” He said, giving an awkward smile.
The house was on pins and needles for the night, Kanaya and Karkat resuming their questioning. Nepeta now stood outside of Equius’ door, hand on the handle.
She blinked for a moment before seeing the small clock on the wall. It was again an ungodly hour.
“Hey Eq, can I come in?” She spoke low and steady.
There was no response.
Her response came close to a minute later.
“You may enter.”
She pushed the door open slowly, seeing her friend on his bed, hair a mess and glasses disposed of on the nightstand.
“Hey buddy.” She cooed, walking around and taking a seat on the foot of his bed. “How are you feeling?”
“I am fine.” Equius spoke.
“Don’t lie to me Eq.”
“I said I am fine.”
“Is…” Nepeta idled with her thumbs. “Is it me? Did I do something wrong again?”
Equius felt a hollow pang in his chest. Again.
“No Nepeta, it is not you.”
“Then why won’t you talk to me?” She pulled her legs up onto the bed, hugging her knees as she looked at him. It was hard to see in the dark of the room but the two managed.
“It is just-” He sighed. “It is me.”
“You just wanna protect us, there’s nothing wrong with that.” She moved up just slightly, testing the waters. Equius seemed to flinch, and shook his head.
“Forget I said anything.” He mumbled, turning away.
“I can’t do that Eq, you’re my best friend.”
“And you are mine.”
“Then tell me what’s bothering you!” Nepeta tried to throw in her usually spunky attitude when Equius hunched into himself.
“Just leave me alone.”
“I said leave me alone!” He snapped his head up, before closing his eyes and pressing the balls of his hands into them. “Go to your room and leave me be.”
“I don’t want to, you need help and I don’t wanna-”
“Why don’t you ever listen to me!” He yelled, beginning to shake. “Get out!” Get out before I hurt you, get out before I lose control, get out before I get worse , his thoughts were flooding him, screams inside his head like his the ones he directed at Nepeta.
The girl went quiet, an extended hand drawn back in. After a few agonizing seconds she stood from the bed, making herself quiet as she opened and closed the door to Equius’ room.
Tavros was in the hall, sitting and watching as Nepeta exited the room, flute on his lap just in case something happened.
“Are you alright Nepeta?”
“I’m going down to the beach. I need some air.” She smiled weakly, going into her own room across the hall.
“I-If you need any-”
Her door slammed shut.
“Help or anything…” Tavros watched, scratching his head.
The waves lapped gently at the shoreline, reflecting the high moon and twinkling stars. Nepeta felt tears streaking down her cheeks, and she chewed at her fingers watching the waves come onto shore and vanish without a trace. She wondered if that happened to relationships. If one day something prominent and strong like a wave could just bleed out into nothingness, a memory, a relic. She shook her head hard, cutting her finger beneath her teeth and hiccuping hard.
She sat on her rock until the sun had risen.
The next morning, Nepeta crawled into bed and fell asleep.
A gentle knock did nothing to rouse her, and it was Equius who peeked in the cracked doorway. He frowned, sad seeing her clearly exhausted, and from the smell of salt in the room and still open window, Equius could guess how she had spent her night. He closed the door.
In the meantime, Equius wandered to the kitchen, helping himself to the last of the milk gallon. Meulin watched hesitantly, before he left with so much as an acknowledgment. She was about to question him when he disappeared.
The day went on, Karkat and Tavros talking to Meulin and learning that the woman really had no way of reaching anyone. She seemed devoid of any mythic based powers that required skill and constant use like telepathy or wolfsense, and she was on the couch with Nepeta from the time she reacquainted with Nepeta to Equius coming home.
Nobody seemed to be able to find any proof or sign of who left the note, the knife a generic weapon smoothed and worn down from activities no house member wanted to learn of. The only real excitement came when Nepeta stepped blindly into the hall, having changed and discarded her jacket for once. No more than four seconds later Equius’ door flew open, and he started talking to her.
“Nepeta I would wish to speak to you.” She nodded in return, and waved him into her room.
Inside, she fell onto her bed and waited for Equius to start talking.
“Nepeta I am very truly sorry for last night, I did not mean what I said.” He waited for some kind of reaction, which he didn’t get. He sat at her desk, folding his hands.
“Yeah, I know.”
“I did not mean to snap at you, my actions were not called for and I was incredibly rude. I would like to do anything to make up for it.”
“It’s okay man, I shouldn’t have pushed you on it.”
“I’m glad you’re feeling better.” She spoke, sitting up and cracking her back. She looked at him, smiling soft but somehow hurt.
“Would you perhaps like to go to the ice cream shop today?”
“Peanut butter milkshake?”
“The biggest peanut butter milkshake you can handle.” He smiled gently. Nepeta seemed to brighten up at his silliness, and she sat up in the bed fully attentive.
“Scout’s honor.” He smirked, Nepeta stifling a laugh. “It should be open now, interested?”
“Hells yeah dude, let’s do it!” She jumped up, grabbing her jacket and rolling up the sleeves, to which Equius followed, grabbing his wallet. They stopped for a few minutes, explaining where they were going and promising to be back in time for group dinner and discussion.
The diner was bustling with summer traffic, the busiest time of year for the small town.
“Ah, two regulars. Your seats are open right down on the end.” The kindly owner spoke, letting the two young adults walk over order their favorites, Equius a small vanilla sundae, and Nepeta a medium peanut butter milkshake. They smiled, joked, even made small talk with the workers they knew. Jokes were swapped, stories told, poor impressions conducted. It was a wonderful afternoon.
Close to five the two paid their tab--the half of the tab the owner would allow them to pay--and meandered up and down the strip. They knew each store and it’s wares, but they still window-shopped and said their hellos. When they reached the grocery store Equius suddenly remembered,
“We’re out of milk and lettuce. Let’s run in while we’re here.” He started to walk in when Nepeta caught his forearm.
“Hey, why not have Karkat or Tavros pick some up?” She smiled awkwardly, trying to avoid going in. If Equius was at the house, then Nepeta learned Ayako was at work.
“Tavros? Really?” Equius questioned her with a smile, and the girl chuckled in return.
“Glad to know you still listen to me sometimes.”
“Yes, just sometimes.” Equius responded, pulling her into the store. Equius led the two up the dairy aisle, and then around to produce and before she even realized, Nepeta was standing face to face with Ayako. She kept her head down, Ayako chewing gum and sending weighted looks her way.
“Hey Ezra, was hoping you’d stop by. Today has been boring as hell.”
“Yeah, empty as fuck. Nice to not only get some business but some eye candy too.” She winked, Equius smiling and flushing. Nepeta stayed silent, only looking up at the very end as Ayako announced the price.
It took too long for the pair to escape, it almost took Nepeta a crowbar to boot, only for Ayako to call out,
“I get off in fifteen minutes!”
“I’ll be here then!” Equius smiled, big and crooked, making Ayako giggle and Nepeta flinch. They started walking back down the strip when Nepeta spoke.
“So I guess I’m taking the groceries then huh?” She looked down.
“Yes, I apologize but I’d much appreciate it, yes.”
“Ooh, that’s a lot of ‘yes,’ guess I’m really not getting out of it.” Nepeta joked, making Equius chortle.
“Thank you Nepeta.” He said, as the two reached the end of the strip. Nepeta was to wind through smaller streets until resuming her dirt path, and Equius to turn around and run back to his girlfriend.
“It’s not a problem.” She lied, smiling. “See you when you get home.” She said, lighthearted as ever.
“I’ll see you then.” Equius replied, turning and leaving.
Nepeta stayed still for a few moments, before talking to herself. “No sweat. Here, pat it for luck.” She reached up touched her left shoulder blade, letting out a small sigh. “I won’t forget. And you better not either.” She spoke quietly, voice cracking as she turned and walked home.
Chapter 7: Chapter 6
Any of the house members could tell something was bothering Nepeta, she was pushing mostly everyone away and secluding herself. Meulin did what she could, telling stories and lulling Nepeta into another nap on her lap. She and Tavros spoke, Karkat joining them and when Nepeta awoke the four even played Uno again.
The afternoon went on, as the group discussion began and Equius entered the house.
“It is fair to believe that someone, has found us. We cannot be sure who, or of what intentions they have discovered the house under.”
Equius and Meulin busily avoided each other’s eyes, Equius leaning on the hallway wall before taking a seat next to Nepeta.
“Okay, so how do we know they even, like want to hurt us?” Tavros asked, scratching his leg.
“That’s just it, we don’t.” Karkat replied. “So as much as we’d like to believe, it is a possibility neither of the packs could have found us.”
“Maybe, well maybe what if some of the kids from town decided to prank us?” Nepeta was idly gnawing on her hand again, Equius and Meulin on either side of her deep in thought. The setting sun cast shadows through the back screen door, heat making each member present fan their shirt or find some way to cope.
“It is a possibility somebody could be messing with the house for messing’s sake.” Equius spoke. “Ay- A companion told me the younger town inhabitants believe this house to be haunted. Like that of a urban myth.”
“But,” Kanaya spoke, “It is still not something we can let go of. Somebody clearly wishes to stir up fear, to let us know we are being targeted.”
Everyone shifted slightly, nodding or things of the like.
“None of us are to leave the house for two weeks, except under the cover of sundown. Nepeta, Equius, your trips to town must stop for the time being.” Both nodded. “Everyone will be careful, silent, and safe. We will continue to meet until the weeks are up, and then we can decide from there.”
Every house member agreed, huffing grievances or idle observations. She was the first to rise, Kanaya adjusting her hair and rubbing her eyes before going upstairs. Karkat was next, standing and following Kanaya’s path. Tavros spoke a few moments later.
“Do you… Do you think you could check on my legs?” He asked sheepishly, tapping hooves against the hardwood floor. Equius nodded, pulling the Satyr away from the two girls and kicking the goat legs up onto the table. His hands delicately followed the bones, and removing the splints he continued his work.
Nepeta and Meulin sat on the couch, the elder gently pulling away Nepeta’s hands as she realized she was chewing on them, blood dribbling down her lip.
“How are you holding up?” Meulin asked, a loud whisper.
“I’m okay. I, I just don’t like all this.” She hid inside her jacket, wiping her mouth.
“I understand. But know this, I won’t let anyone take you anywhere.” She took Nepeta in for a hug again, Nepeta adamant her shoulders weren’t shaking as they did just that.
“Do you need some time to let yourself think? Draw some?”
“Yeah, I think I do.” Nepeta rose from the couch, giving Meulin a nod, and Tavros a halfhearted wave before returning to her quarters. No one spoke for a few minutes, Meulin running through her sign language alphabet again and again just to have something to do.
“Are you two okay?” Tavros asked awkwardly, tapping his fingers against his chest. “You a-and Nepeta I mean.” He continued watching Equius work, stone face and niceties of language lost.
“We are excellent, we did spend time out together today.” He responded, tying the left splint. “But our relationship is none of your concern Nitram. Your left leg seems to be healing well, now let me check your right.”
Why wouldn’t Equius talk to her? Why was he blowing up on her? What did she do wrong? Why couldn’t she like Ayako? Questions were rampaging inside Nepeta’s mind, having the girl throw her arms exasperatedly. A particularly loud gust of wind caught her attention, drawing her to the window. The sun had almost completely set, sending beautiful fuchsias and maroons across the sky.
No one is to leave the house for two weeks. Nepeta repeated it to herself again and again, especially loud as she hoisted the window open, mumbling it to herself as she fell from the low window with a small cloud of dust. Nobody is to leave the house for two weeks, unless under the cover of moonlight. And as the sun began it’s final minutes of daylight, Nepeta ran down to the beach.
The water was calming, quiet in it’s high tide runs against the rock. Nepeta kicked off her shoes, and then her shorts. She sat in the small waters, tiny insipid waves that barely reached over her ankles as she sat. Her boyshorts were getting thoroughly soaked, her hands snaking into the pebbly sand as she let the cold water wash around her. Was she doing something wrong? She was trying to be understanding, she was trying to forget and be nice and forgive and Ayako was just so mean. The water grew stronger, eventually passing over her feet entirely. Her long green jacket was swiped into the water now, wet and clinging to one side as the waves rolled in.
Nepeta thought. She sat and listened to the waves, the quiet peace and coexistence of life at the shoreline. The pink light growing under the water couldn’t break her from her focus. The water was cold, and she was just trying not to cry as she felt the water wash away her sadness.
The icy hand wrapping around her ankle managed to snap her back into reality.
She was yanked, quick and strong into the waves, past the sandbar and into the depths without so much as a scream, arms flailing and voice dying in her throat. She was held with nails and stinging weird pains like jellyfish as she writhed, her head breaking the surface for just a second. Just long enough for her to get out a yell.
“Equius!” She couldn’t shift, she couldn’t focus, Nepeta could just weakly fight and burn her eyes through the salt water as she watched the blur of her attacker.
Equius wasn’t coming. Equius was done with her.
She was going to die here.
With a hiccuped sob, Nepeta choked out a last breath, instead pulling the seadweller in, against her chest. She held on, blindly toying with her own heart. She coughed again, eyes rolling up as everything blacked out.
The seadweller, needless to say, was stricken. She blinked, again and again as her prey clung to her, auburn curly hair and green jacket floating slowly in the water. She blinked, again and again, before taking her cheek in her hand. The girl was lightskinned, a beautiful brown that offset her own pale pink-grey skin. She was soft, beautiful and so tranquil under the waves. Looking around once, then twice, the seadweller took off for the shoreline again.
She dropped Nepeta onto the shore, brushing back hair and pressing on her chest. After a few moments she pressed her lips to Nepeta’s, blowing with all her might and fluttering her gills as Nepeta’s chest gave a heave, the girl rolling over and throwing up the salt water that encased her lungs.
She shook, the seadweller watching carefully as Nepeta coughed, whole body shaking. When she turned, the seadweller inched back, hiding herself behind her long black hair.
“You… You saved me?” She asked.
“I’m Feferi.” The seadweller responded. “I-I- I didn’t want to kill you. You seemed to have- well- I recognize you from yesterday.” Feferi shied away just slightly again, Nepeta watching carefully.
“Y-Yeah…” Nepeta rubbed her eyes, watching her savior shift, finally taking note of her more aquatic features. She had gills and fins, shiny iridescent scales that trailed up and down almost everywhere, and toned muscle that her long flowing hair clung to. She was breathtaking. “Yeah, I came down here last night. I like to get away a little bit. You’re-You’re a seadweller?”
Feferi nodded, adjusting her hair and watching Nepeta. “I’m a fuchsia, highest seadweller class there is."
“I take it you’re not eel-y human?” Feferi asked now, adjusting her sitting position and having her tail dip just slightly in the tide.
“Uh, no, no I’m a werewolf.” Her previous encounter entirely slipped her mind, distracted but Feferi’s sharp teeth and tantalizing smile.
“Were you the- No no never mind.” Feferi shook her head. “How are you reeling?”
“Fish puns?” Nepeta breathed, sitting up completely and holding her ankles.
Feferi laughed, Nepeta seeing stars. “Yeah, it’s a bit of a halibut. I do it just for the halibut too.”
“I do cat puns! When I get really anxious like mew I cat control it anymeow!” Nepeta smiled, Feferi giggling again. They sat talking, Nepeta opening up just briefly as Feferi rubbed her arm. Minutes bleed into hours, as the two found comfort in each other. When she realized though, Nepeta shot onto her feet, shaking.
“Shit, I gotta- I can’t stay Fef, I gotta get back to the house, I’m not s’pposed to be out here, I’m-”
She took a few deep breaths, Feferi shooshing from her position on the sand. “I understand. Go home before you get carp up in trouble, catfish.” Nepeta smiled, nodding. “See you again soon?”
“Yeah, yeah I definitely will. Thank you Fefurry.” Grabbing her discarded shorts and the one shoe she could find in her rush, Nepeta ran back to the house, feeling eyes everywhere until she reached home. She hefted herself into the window, falling onto the floor with a small thud before pulling off her jacket and changing her wet clothes as best she could. She kicked the wet clothes under her bed, hanging her jacket on the outside window ledge and closing the window as best she could to hold it. Everything was sort of spinning, and the shock from drowning seemed to finally set in as Nepeta fell onto her bed.
Things were getting messy now.
Equius again opened Nepeta’s door the following morning, peering in to check on her. She was asleep, hair an absolute mess and when he stepped in quietly, she had the slightest chill. She curled up in bed, clinging to her blankets. His brows knit, but realized it was none of his business, and exited
She was going down to the beach every night it seemed, and Equius smiled just a little knowing at least she found something that could make her happy. But also, she was sneaking out, she was endangering herself. He nonetheless made a mental note, and idly spoke with Meulin and Karkat who were in the main room as he walked in.
“How is she?”
“Asleep.” He carefully omitted. “I guess everything going on is getting to her.” He said quietly, reaching out to the icebox.
“Get the sandwich stuff while you’re in there.” Karkat called, resuming his talk with Meulin. “Is there anything else you can tell us? Anything at all you remember?”
“No, Kurloz and I never spoke in seadweller, and I don’t know why he would do this.” One of her hands balled in her skirt, as she took a breath and rubbed her eyes. “How long have you been in this house?”
“About four years if I had to guess. Two without the wolves and two with.” Karkat scratched his ear, and pulled on the sleeve of his shirt. It was an obnoxious red color, short sleeves that had him out of his comfort zone to Kanaya and Meulin’s delight. “If you’d be comfortable with it, there is something I could do.”
“Usually, when a vampire drinks blood from someone they can, well sorta fuckin’, see memories. It doesn’t always work though, it might not even show me what we’re looking for. But if you were conscious when the tattooing started, and you couldn’t focus through the pain, then I might be able to see what you couldn’t then.” Karkat spoke, slowly watching Meulin read his lips.
“Anything’s worth a shot at least once.” Meulin replied, brushing her wavy hair onto one shoulder. “And I can trust you?”
“I can get Kanaya, I know sometimes I’m really not the right person for a job-”
“Can I trust you?”
Karkat swallowed. “Yes.”
“Equius, hey you prick.” Equius’ eyebrows raised as he looked at him. “Make the sandwiches but get over here with some water. And if I white out grab my by the nose. Don’t let me do anything stupid.”
“I would much rather punch you, but yes I will not let you harm Meulin.”
Karkat gave a nod, swallowing again before sitting on Meulin’s direct side. She leaned into him, taking deep breaths for Karkat to relax. He pressed his nose to her neck, smelling for one of her less major arteries, eyes shirking to slits. Licking the spot, and gently probing, Karkat slowly cut her with his nail before placing his mouth over the wound, feeling the warm blood seep into his mouth.
He let out a growl, instinctually as his mind began to blank, memories slowly fading into his mind.
He was able to focus on one, a thought he snagged and followed to the moment Meulin woke up strapped to a cold and metal table. She was clearly drugged, she seemed to be unable to focus or think, watching as what Karkat could assume was Kurloz placed a kiss on her cheek. A shadow stood in the unlit corner of the room, tall and from what Karkat could see, in gaudy jewelry and clothes. He fought to move Meulin’s head, to focus her eyes, until the tattooing began, Meulin letting out garbled half coherent screams.
Karkat’s eyes snapped open, mouth dislodging from Meulin’s neck as blood dripped down the corners of his mouth. Equius released his hold on the vampire’s nose, propping Meulin back onto the couch.
“You were whiting out.” Equius spoke, handing Meulin a glass of water and holding her by the bicep.
“I saw, some gaudy jewelry and obnoxious pink boots.” Karkat spoke, wiping his mouth on his wrist. “Here, let me.” He leaned over now, giving the slit on Meulin’s neck a few placid licks before the wound closed. “Something I didn’t recognize to say the least.”
"So we still don’t know anything.” Meulin sighed, rubbing the spot Karkat had cut.
“I’m afraid there’s nothing much we could know any way.”
The following week was quiet, each familial bond tightening just the slightest as everyone was in the diamond house all day, most of their time spent waiting. And each night, Nepeta waited for the house to go quiet, before sneaking out to visit her new friend. They met, hurried whispers each night and hugs exchanged, Nepeta and Feferi growing to know each other as people instead of threats.
They spoke, gazing at the stars.
It was one of those nights, close to the second week that Feferi laid her head on Nepeta’s lap, her tail dipping just into the tide like usual. “Et se saiyáu.” She mumbled, drowsily. Her claws drew little sea creatures in the sand, cuttlefish and pufferfish.
“It’s seadweller, the base version at least. The core of language.”
“Like, latin? I think it’s latin at least.” Nepeta spoke, drawing a small cat face into the sand too.
“Yeah, I guess. It means I love you. Platonically and stuff but, I think you’re one of my favorite people.” Feferi spoke, shoulders shaking the littlest bit.
“No fish puns? You must be eely serious.” Nepeta joked, having Feferi chortle and sit upright.
“Yeah, my friend hasn’t been too good for me the past little while, and you’re beginning to be what I look forward to everyday. Just getting to talk to you.”
“I feel the same way!” Nepeta brightened up, clapping her hands. “You’re my escape each day!” The two bubbled on, about how stupid people could be, how it made them feel, and eventually they regressed to stargazing and shitty doodling.
“Et se saiyáu.” Feferi said.
“Jet set soy sauce.” Nepeta responded, pursing her lips.
Feferi laughed again, luminescence brightening and giving her a soft halo of pink. “Say it slow,” She spoke, sitting beside her friend and drawing the words into the sand as they spoke. She wrote in her language, teaching Nepeta to say the simple phrase again and again.
“Et se saiyáu.” Nepeta finally spoke, hitting the nail on the head, pointing to the symbols written in the sand.
“You did it!” Feferi cheered, giggling as Nepeta puffed out her chest. She was about to continue, when she looked up at the stars. “It’s getting early, you should head back.” Her voice died down, making Nepeta ruffle her wet hair.
“I probably should. But hey Fefurry. Et se saiyáu.”
“Et se saiyáu.” She replied, watching her friend pull on her dry shorts and shoes, jogging back up the path onto dry land.
Nepeta snuck into her room again, changing her wet undergarments and smiling to herself. “Et se saiyáu,” She repeated to herself, chanting it like a mantra. She smiled, pressing her cheeks in her hands.
Maybe the last week of house arrest wouldn’t be so bad.
She idly meandered into the kitchen, making a glass of water--careful not to wake Meulin asleep on the couch-- and having a sip in the silence of night. She was startled by the quiet creak of the front door, Equius stepping in and meeting her gaze.
They stood in silence.
“Hello.” Equius whispered, clenching and unclenching his hands.
“What are you doing awake?”
“Couldn’t sleep.” Nepeta responded.
“Did you go to the beach again?”
Nepeta’s eyes scrunched. “How did you know I went to the beach at night?"
“You always smelt of saltwater in the mornings.”
“So you came into my room unprompted and sniffed me.” Nepeta quirked a brow, barely hiding her own smile as Equius cracked his own.
“I was worried about you.”
What a sack of shit. “Oh. I'm okay I guess. Didn’t want to go tonight, thought I’d try and sleep.” Well, she couldn’t rightly blame Equius for lying, she was in deep herself at the moment. “I take it you weren’t at the beach though.”
“No.” Equius spoke. Nepeta waited for a response, one she didn’t get. He didn’t need to say it though, that would only hurt more. She knew, he was with Ayako.
“Will it be a problem?”
“I love her Nepeta. I can’t just ignore her for two weeks.”
“I never said you couldn’t love her. All I’m saying is we still don’t know what we’re up against.”
Her friend seemed to tense, shoulders rising as if he was offended. “We know darn well what we’re up against, seadwellers.” Equius vaguely motioned to Meulin, indicating her back. The two of them went quiet, letting the cicadas do the talking. “We can talk about this in the morning.” Equius mumbled, walking further into the house and disappearing into his room.
“Glad to know you’re starting the birthday week as planned.” Nepeta mumbled into her glass. Finishing her drink, Nepeta walked instead into the main room and took a seat on the unoccupied corner of the couch beside Meulin’s feet. “Et se saiyáu.” She whispered, finding a smile grace her lips. At least she had something.
Chapter 8: Chapter 7
While Nepeta had been at the beach, Equius had indeed been in the small town. The hot night air pressed down on him, the young man taking off for where he knew Ayako’s house would be. He knocked on the door, being greeted by one of Ayako’s sisters before being welcomed in.
The house was loud, bustling with music and videos, the youngest kids running around and playing games while the older kids helped clean up dinner. Ayako was doing just that, hair up in a bun and talking in a language Equius couldn’t identify when she looked up, finally seeing him.
“Ezra! Well this is a surprise!” She smiled, speaking again in the unknown language and walking over, dropping her dishrag on her boyfriend’s shoulders. “What brings you around at butt o’clock at night?” She asked, watching her younger siblings and sticking her tongue out at them as they made kissing noises.
“I’ll be a bit busy in the coming week, I won’t be able to see you as often as I’d like.” He spoke, smiling as she interacted with her family.
“Oh, well that sucks. Can I ask why?”
“Neah’s family is coming to visit.” He lied, glad he took time to construct a reasonable response.
“Oh.” Ayako’s demeanor seemed to change, crossing her arms. “Well, I mean it’s her family right? Why does it matter to you?”
“We live under the same roof, of course it affects me.” Equius spoke, adjusting his sunglasses.
“Sure sure, yeah. Hey, can you at least do something for me?”
“Can we hang out again as soon as possible? It’s not that I don’t trust you, but I mean you’ve spent your entire life in this town with her. I wanna spend some time with you.” She shrugged her shoulders, taking the dishrag off of Equius. His hand caught it, the two standing still for a few seconds holding the fabric between them.
“It’s sweet.” Equius replied, pulling Ayako in to him and leaning down to her.
“I just have a killer boyfriend.” Ayako replied, smiling and giving him a quick kiss. The two young children started making vomit and dying groans, making the two in the entrance laugh and run over to the kids, half yelling about cooties and making everyone within earshot smile.
Days dissolved into nights, into cycles and it was the night before her birthday that Nepeta saw Feferi again. She waited until she was sure Equius was asleep, limiting her time with her friend but ensuring she could be safe about it. Running down to the beach, Nepeta’s flipflops were discarded as she stood in the tiny waves.
“Feferi! Feferi!” She half yelled, cupping her hands. “This is important! I need to talk to you!”
A small pink glow bloomed from the water, Feferi emerging a few feet from the sandbar. When she noticed Nepeta, she grew brighter, before disappearing under the water and riding in the next wave.
“Nepeta! I was worried you didn’t want to seal me anymore.” She smiled, big pink eyes blinking fast.
“No, I love hanging out with you. My house is just in a little danger, I won’t be able to see you as often as I have been these past two weeks. I want to keep you safe.” Nepeta watched Feferi almost shrink, before nodding her head.
“Whale we’ll krill be able to hang out, right?”
“Of course.” The two met eyes, small smiles and giggles escaping them from nowhere.
“Hey, didn’t you say your hatching was coming up soon?” The seadweller asked innocently, tapping her claws together.
“Well yeah, it’s technically tomorrow. Well today, but really tomorrow.” Nepeta replied, furrowing her brow. “Why?” She took a seat on the sand, watching Feferi glow and float in the water.
“Whale, I wanted to get you somefin; but I can’t hide very much around my cluster. So instead I thought I could get you somefin later and just give you a placeholder for now. A guppy for fish to come later. Sorta. Like a promise.”
“Fef, you don’t have to get me anything.”
“Shush! Of course I do! But since we won’t be able to see each other often now, I really gotta. I’ll be right back.” She said, turning and taking off into the waves. Her light disappeared, leaving Nepeta alone with her thoughts. Feferi returned a few minutes later, handing her friend a small clam shell.
“Now just open it tomorrow, otterwise it’ll lose its hatchday magic.”
“Moving from fish puns to aquatic ones I see.” Nepeta joked, taking the shell and setting it in her jacket pocket.
“Oh hush kitty.” Feferi smiled, giving Nepeta a solid punch to the shoulder. Nepeta rubbed the spot and relaxed on the beach, Feferi pulling herself up to lay on her back next to Nepeta, the both staring up at the night sky.
“Hey Feferi.” Nepeta’s voice was loud in the silence, gentle almost. Feferi turned, and Nepeta continued. “Thank you.”
“It’s never a problem Neppie.” She replied, patting Nepeta on the stomach.
The night eventually passed, morning rose, and the day went on. There was a small present in Nepeta’s bowl in the kitchen, a jade green ribbon around a collection of dollar coins. Nepeta was sure to find Kanaya and Karkat, giving them rancorous hugs that really ended up in one sided wrestling matches. Meulin and Tavros it turned out had teamed up to write a little song for her, making Nepeta smile and clap the whole way through.
It wasn’t a lot, and she knew, but it meant the world to her. Just letting her know everything wasn’t hell on earth was a blessing. She spent time with the other house members, joked and kicked ass at Uno, she spent the day happy. But the whole day, a sense of waiting filled her. Equius never did anything. Not a happy birthday or a present--not that Nepeta was materialistic--and it had her confused.
Even at the final house discussion Nepeta was sure to not mention her birthday. Kanaya conducted most of the speaking anyway.
“Alright, so the two weeks has passed. July is coming to it’s end and soon autumn will be breaching our door again.
“August still exists.” Tavros mumbled.
“Yes it does, but that doesn’t stop us from needing to take care of our preparations. We’ll need Equius and Nepeta to resume aiding me in my business, Meulin may I ask you to also chauffer my work back and forth between the town?”
“You sew right? Yeah I can help deliver stuff.”
“Thank you. And I think after all this time one thing has become abundantly clear.”
“That there was never any real threat.” Karkat finished her phrase, carving his fingernails into the wooden countertop.
“Yes, it seems as though nothing has come with destruction plans on our home.” Equius replied, nodding. “Rather good news, yes?”
“Great news! I can finally show Meulin around the town so we can window shop together!” Nepeta replied. “And I can show her how I can still kick the shit out of some assholes.” Nepeta pumped her fist, usual excited air and moxy returning to her.
Kanaya and Karkat both smiled, Tavros letting out a whole laugh. “Well, that’s uh, quite the fuckin’ transition Nepeta.”
Nepeta cheered again, having Meulin imitate her the best she could, everyone dissolving into some kind of giggle.
“Discussion over then. Everyone, the night is young and yours.” Karkat spoke, standing and stretching his arms. Everyone split up, smalltalk and little distractions as the crew could feel the pressure from the letter fade away.
“Hey Eq, maybe we could-” Nepeta looked over her shoulder to where she knew Equius sat, only to find his empty stool. Kanaya gave a slow head shake, before returning to her conversation with Meulin. “I guess he’s busy.”
Deep into the night, and with a shroud of silence Nepeta fished the shell from her jacket pocket. Carefully, she opened the small container to find a golden ring, deep pink stone inset along the face. Inside, was a small note.
It’s one of my rings, in case you couldn’t tell! Hehehe, I just have an adorabubble idea for your gift, and I want to get it ‘purr’fect before I give it to you. So take this small piece of me as my promise!
With a smile and chant of her mantra, Nepeta laughed and flapped her free hand. Even if Equius forgot, she definitely had something.
The next morning Equius was working on the car when Nepeta woke up, he was absorbed like usual even. Nepeta walked up and took a seat in the truck bed as Equius worked in the hood.
“Hey.” She said, watching the treeline. She wanted to know, she already knew but she wanted to make sure. “Where’d you head out to last night?”
“I visited Ayako. She requested to spend time with me as soon as our grounding ended.”
“Oh, cool.” Nepeta didn’t have much else to say, she sat in silence as Equius worked. The wrench in his hand squeaked, metal parts of the old blue truck squeaking and tightening. He stopped after a few minutes.
“Why do you ask?” He himself asked, brushing back his ponytail and walking around to the rear of the truck. Equius took his seat, Nepeta taking her chance to adjust her friend’s hair, giving him a ridiculous man bun.
“It’s just… Eq…” Her usual happiness and pride melted away as she folded her hands.
“Yesterday was my birthday.” She didn’t have much energy for the awkward way the two of them could fight with words sometimes, she would much rather air it out so he could understand. His face hardened for a moment, before it fell slack and he rubbed his eyes with the back--and only clean part--of his hands. A small word escaped his lips, one Nepeta pretended not to hear because she knew he really didn’t even mean to swear.
After another second his hand moved, greasy and oily hand holding Nepeta’s clean one. “Nepeta, I cannot express my level of sorrow for what I had forgotten.” He was really broken up about it, in a way Nepeta wasn’t expecting. Equius almost looked like he was going to burst into tears, before he gave up and threw his arms around his friend.
“I am so sorry Nepeta.”
“Hey man, it’s okay, I just- well I thought you’d wanna know.”
“I do wish to know, now I wish to know how I can make it up to you.”
“Eq, it’s really okay-”
“It is unforgivable, and today we are going to spend the whole day together celebrating. Let’s get started.” Equius responded, talking too fast in the way he did when he was trying to cover up how close he was to crying.
“Jeez you big doofus, I told you it’s fine.” Equius was standing, Nepeta following as her friend wiped his hands on his shorts. Most of the grey and black smeared on his grey shorts, and Equius raised his fists.
“You remember when I said we couldn’t spar, but on special occasions?”
“Ooooh, You for real? I should make you forget things more often.” Nepeta joked, bouncing a few times before drawing her fists. “Bring it on you brick shithouse.”
“Oh, I will, don’t you worry you little anklebiter.”
“Oh it is on!”
Fists flew, never landing hard; and more than anything the two seemed to dance instead of fight. Each swing was mirrored by a dodge, perfect in both executions, laughs and snide comments were exchanged instead of a real fighting silence. By the time both had exhausted themselves there wasn’t even a clear winner. Not until Nepeta threw herself up, swinging off Equis extended arm and latching around the back of his neck.
“You play dirty.”
“And you are dirty.” She replied, rubbing her forearm against Equius’ hair playfully so it bunched and gathered unevenly. He reached back, grabbing her large sleeve and twirling her off of him.
The both of them dissolved into snorting laughs, giggles and happy sighs. Maybe things with Ayako didn’t mean she would lose him. Maybe things were going to be okay.
It turned out, even as the pair tried to rebuild their friendship, the world was determined to tear it back down. Equius and Ayako resumed their regular dates, and they spent more than just a simple afternoon together. As the summer days began to shorten, Equius would begin to spend nights at the girl’s house. And it bothered Nepeta. But again she never spoke against them, what made Equius happy deserved to make him happy.
At least more good was happening at the same time. The Maryam sewing business picked up it’s usual end of season spree, sundresses needing hems before they would be forgotten, ruined school pants needing patches, Meulin even was able to introduce herself into the town.
Everything was calming down again, and in their free time Karkat and Meulin were trying to decipher the seadweller written on her back. It was a nice bonding time. Tavros himself had been updated from pure office chair movement to assisted walking. It unnerved the entire house to no end, the Satyr suddenly standing up in the middle of a conversation had Karkat jump more than once.
Nepeta again began her meetings with Feferi, and the two blossomed a beautiful friendship. Feferi talked of under the water, and Nepeta spoke about her fears and relationship with Equius.
Everything was settled in it’s nice routine by end of Summer, and Nepeta learned some rather depressing news. Ayako was instead of going to school, taking a gap year to raise up more money for tuition. She would stay until next fall.
The hot summer sun chilled, green leaves of the forest browning. Wind blew off the dying leaves and the ocean’s water began to bite. The diamond house was content with it’s rather full cast, and eventually Meulin had managed to move into Nepeta’s room as the sisters became closer. Although it was then harder for Nepeta to sneak out, she made it work. Meulin and Tavros took small walks along the forest paths every once in awhile, which occasionally dissolved into the entire house taking a short hike.
For what they had, the house began to feel more like a family.
A few weeks into autumn, Nepeta was sitting on the beachside when Feferi’s glow was blooming in the water, making the girl stand and grin. When Feferi’s head broke the surface though, it was greeted by another.
“Nepeta! Help me with him!” She yelled, looking frantically around the water as she neared the shore. Nepeta took off for no more than a pause for thought, running into the waist deep water, taking the huge lanky form from Feferi’s arms. The air nipped the cold and wet clothes of the both of them as Nepeta flung the body onto the sand. It was a seadweller it seemed, tiny fins and stunted gills, but also part satyr like Tavros, hooves instead of feet and long spiraling horns extending from the wet mop of hair on his head.
“Feferi, what- what the fuck is- how the-”
“Near my hive, a squadron was passing by, Nep they wanted to torture him! They said he had answers they needed!”
“You fought a squadron of grown seadwellers?!” Nepeta was pulling her own hair, alternating between watching the unconscious boy on the sand and Feferi, kneeling best she could nearby.
“No! Dear gods no I just- Nepeta help him! I don’t know what to do, I barely realized how to save you!” She too was freaking out, gesturing at the seagoat and shaking.
Ignoring the more pressing questions for now and straddling his back Nepeta gave a solid smack, rousing a half cough before rolling him over and hitting his sternum. His eyes shot open, chest spasming as he seemed to regain consciousness. Nepeta took a moment to look at Feferi, seeing a bit mark on her shoulder, making the werewolf angry.
“He was freaking out Neppie, just get him back to the world of the living.” Feferi spoke quietly as the seagoat sat up shakily.
“Wha… huh?” His voice was somehow too deep and too high at the same time, making Nepeta somehow a little unsettled. “Fuck…?”
“What’s your name?” Nepeta spoke, voice loud with authority and one arm in front of Feferi.
He coughed again, looking up blearily. “Names…. Gamzee.” He breathed, pushing back his mess of hair. His eyes were a haze, sickening to meet Nepeta’s. “What-?”
“A bunch of seadwellers were trying to torture you.” Feferi spoke, staying behind Nepeta’s arm.
“I… just…” He gave another series of rolling coughs before Nepeta gave in, venturing close and lifting his upper half into a sitting position.
“Why would seadwellers want to torture you? Are you a threat to them? To landdwellers?”
“No, hell, I’m just a fuckin’ seagoat bro. I can’t rightly fit into either of your categories.” Gamzee finally managed to get out a complete sentence, seemingly still in a fair bit of shock. “I don’t know what they wanted, I remember, something about a long ass name that I can’t get in my head proper.” He rubbed his eyes, before sitting up all the way and allowing Nepeta to step back.
The girls watched him, his stunted fins hanging from his long pointed ears, small snout that could just barely pass for a nose and they calmed down.
“Neppie, he can’t stay with me.” Feferi spoke, tugging Nepeta’s pants so the girl knelt. “I’m already afraid I’m under some kind of watch, I should get back before my cluster goes looking for me.”
“Yeah, yeah you’re right.” Nepeta spoke, taking Feferi’s hand and holding it. “Just stay safe, okay?”
“You too. Et se saiyáu.” She whispered, Nepeta repeating it before the seadweller took off into the cold waters of the sea. Gamzee watched from his sitting position, a small question on his lips.
“She’s my friend. Nice to know you’re conscious enough to pick up on cues though.” Nepeta spoke hurriedly, taking Gamzee’s hand to pull him to his feet. He did, seemingly thanks to his long mess of gangly limbs the seagoat ended up hunching over her, he had to be almost a foot taller than her! “Can you even walk properly?” Se asked, trying to get him to stand on his own.
“Can barely see sis, you’re gonna havta help a motherfucker.” He responded, wincing when Nepeta grabbed his wrist a little too hard. She weighed her options, leave Gamzee here and have him be caught, or worse, wander into town, and take him to the diamond house; threats of Kanaya be damned.
“Grab my shoulders and don’t let go.” She grumbled, taking a deep breath and starting a jog. With not more than a pause she shifted, sprinting through the dark cold of the forest, Gamzee hanging on for dear life as Nepeta took a few shortcuts to get home.
She jumped up onto the porch of the house, changing back to her human form; Gamzee finally losing his grip and tumbling to the hardwood with a few wheezing coughs.
“Oh shit dude, sorry.” she realized, dropping down to help him stand, hooves clattering and hands grabbing her tight. “Get ready for an earful.” She murmured, pulling open the screen door and stepping into the house, somehow Karkat already being awake.
“Nepeta what the hell were you doing outside? And what the fuck, what piece of shit do you have lounging over you like a drape?!” His voice started his regular angry tone, before escalating to a real yell as he noticed Gamzee, the seagoat smiling dopily and giving a half wave.
“Nepeta!” Karkat was livid, practically glowing if his powers could manifest.
“Gamzee.” Gamzee smiled, picking up the wrong idea.
“Karkat, huh?” Gamzee smiled.
“Gamzee shut up,” Nepeta barked, not nearly as much venom as she wanted.
Karkat gave a ludicrous blink, before stepping out of the kitchen and towards Nepeta in the doorway. “Kanaya was right Leijon, we are not ! Running a fucking hospital here!” His fingers jabbed at her chest, Nepeta giving a snarl in response.
“He was being attacked by seadwellers!” Nepeta replied. “If anything, you should be furricking thanking me! He might know something than can help us decode Meulin!” Nepeta lunged the tall motherfucker off her shoulders, sending him to wobble and cling onto Karkat instead. Karkat gave a few colorful yells, Gamzee repeating most of them back and melting onto his new friend and his burning body heat. They had an awkward gaggle of either too long or too short limbs, before Karkat gave in and crossed his arms.
“He’s burning hot for something of his species, he can stay the night, but if he doesn’t know anything then he’s out of here tomorrow morning.” Karkat was looking at Nepeta, though really talking to the seagoat now attached to his neck.
“You’re the best fucking pal there is.” He mumbled, rubbing his face against Karkat’s hair and thoroughly making it a heaping mess.
“Shut the fuck up, you don’t even know me.” Karkat took off, trying to pry Gamzee from him and onto the couch, a few extra heads popping from the hallway. Equius, Meulin, and Kanaya seemed to wake at the two yelling, Kanaya specifically raising her eyebrows at Nepeta, blinking fast.
“Are you for real?”
“Sadly.” Nepeta replied.
“Where did you even find a seagoat?” Equius’ eyes scrunched, watching his friend.
“He was being attacked by seadwellers.” Nepeta mumbled, before realizing the now gaping hole in her story.
“What were you doing where you saw seadwellers? Were you at the ocean?” He stepped closer this time, Nepeta looking away.
“I was watching the stars like you and I used to.” She replied, crossing her arms. Kanaya and Meulin watched, before walking over to Karkat and their new guest. Meulin keeping her eyes on the pair as she walked.
“And you jumped into the ocean to save him? A being you didn’t even know?” Equius gave a fake laugh, more cynical and worried than surprised. “What if he attacked you? How did you manage to free him from seadwellers?” His questions came out, Nepeta flinching with each one.
“We’re taking this outside.” Nepeta took off, throwing herself out of the house and onto the porch. She hoped, prayed, that Equius wouldn’t come outside. He must have know, it was close to a minute later when he did.
“Nepeta, there’s something you’re not telling me.” He was worried, but his voice spoke more of betrayal and distrust. “Explain where that seagoat came from Nepeta.”
“I was at the beach, and-” Her brain struggled to get the right pieces in the right order in time. “Some seadwellers were fighting, I saw them ‘cause of their stupid fucking glowing okay? A-And I wanted to help him! I found a bunch of rocks and starting throwing them, I hit one of the fuckers and a few of them fled and I didn’t stop, and he floated closer to the shore and I pulled him in!” She tried to explain calmly, before her hands began to shake and she finished her lie yelling, tears running hot tracks down her cheeks. The small light on the side of the house cast shadows across the two of them, Nepeta’s shoulders shaking as she looked at Equius. Equius watched her, ripping off his glasses before he started.
“Nepeta, you could have gotten hurt! Or worse, what if he had been threatening? What if he attacked you, or drug you back into the water?” Equius’ voice seemed to do the opposite of Nepeta’s, dying down into a range of fragility. He had a moment of weakness, a split second Nepeta wanted to spill her guts, pour out the truth and just let herself believe in Equius, believe in his good heart. Let her believe things could go back to how they were before. And then he snapped. “What would you have done then?! Nobody was there! Tell me how you would have fought, I wasn’t there to protect you!”
She could see it, in the way he suddenly made it about him. He didn’t care, he wanted to be the hero. He wanted to protect her and own her, just like Ayako owned him. And in a moment of less than clear thought, Nepeta lashed back.
“I don’t need you to fucking protect me!” Her mouth closed, teeth sinking into her closed lips as Nepeta watched him. “You’ve done a fucking great job of it already, right?” Her voice broke, and giving him a hard shove, Nepeta took off away from the light of the house gasping and running through trees. His voice echoed in her ears, again and again as she ran.
“Nepeta! Wait, Nepeta!”
Chapter 9: Chapter 8
“Nepeta, come back!” He was running before he could realize it, throwing himself after his best friend, disappearing into the darkness after her. Where could she have gone? She wouldn’t run deeper into the woods, maybe into town? She didn’t like the dark, and when he stopped for a breath, Equius noticed pawprints in the dirt, a sprint that led indeed towards the path into town. He was about to shift and follow her, when a voice called out to him.
“Ayako?” He squinted, a beam of light suddenly meeting his eyes. “What are you doing out here? It’s-”
“Like four am, I know.” She stepped closer, pointing the light down as it illuminated her shoes and skirt. “What are you doing out here?”
“Neah ran off,” He was suddenly acutely aware of how sweaty he must have been, and out of breath as Ayako shrugged. “Wait, you didn’t answer me.”
“I was coming to see you.” She said, “I’ve been having trouble sleeping. You said something about how you struggled to sleep too, and I was hoping you’d be awake. Wasn’t expecting to see you running around like a madman.”
“Listen, as much as I’d love to talk to you, I really must find Neah before she hurts herself.” He held Ayako’s hand in his own, and gave a weak smile. “She means a lot to me, and you should get home before you get in trouble.” He gave her a gentle kiss on the forehead, and she seemed to twitch.
“What, and I don’t?”
“I don’t mean a lot to you?” She spat, “I came all the way out here to hang out with you, and you’re chasing down some other girl?”
“You know it’s not like that.” He said, bowing down a little bit. “She’s my friend, I’m worried because she ran into the woods like a madman.”
“And since when is it your job to run after her? She ran, she can man up and deal with it.” Ayako seemed harsh, blinking the phone’s flashlight in Equius’ face when he didn’t reply. “Well? Are you gonna answer me or what?”
“I don’t know what you’re expecting me to say here Aya,”
“I’m expecting you to tell me you love me, that you’re not secretly dating Neah out here in the forest where I can only see you once every few days!” She suddenly yelled, before covering her mouth. “Oh my god. I’m sorry I didn’t-” Her shoulders shook, still covering her mouth.
“You came out here because you didn’t trust me?” Equius’ face fell, stepping back closer to his girlfriend and putting his hands on her waist. “You were afraid I was cheating on you?”
She nodded shakily, pressing her forehead against Equius’ chest. “Please I don’t mean to be so hard on you, I just get so afraid and,”
“Shhh…. Ayako it’s going to be okay.” He whispered, holding her in his arms. “I’m not cheating on you, I could never do that to you.” Eq pressed a hand to her hair, mumbling sweet nothings again and again until Ayako repeated them.
“We should get you homs.” He mumbled, taking off his glasses as his girlfriend nodded, wiping her eyes. Miraculously, she seemed to brighten up the smallest bit, making him smile. “There’s my fierce little Aya.”
“Oh shut up, what are you a proud pet owner?”
The two let small giggles escape them, a few sticks snapping in the distance having Equius curl around her.
It was Meulin, black shirt almost thrashed as she barreled out of the thornbush nearby.
“Thank god! You found her?” She yelled, hunched over and heaving for breath before looking up to see Equius and Ayako. The girl seemed to cling onto Equius, and after a few seconds Meulin stood upright as she realized. “Oh.” She nodded a few times, rolling her head every which way until she clapped her hands. “Great. I’m sure you’ll find my sister down that girl’s throat, get her out with your tongue why don’t you.” Meulin snarled, taking back off into the darkness just as quick as she reached them.
“Ezra?” Ayako asked, still holding him.
“Come on. Let’s get you home.” He half growled, ”I’ll walk you home, but I really do need to look for my friend.”
“Alright, yeah that’s cool I guess. Just, we’re still on for tomorrow right?”
“Yeah, but come on. We can’t have you getting in trouble and grounded.” He took her hand, the two walking into town.
He probably wouldn’t even chase her, she realized. He probably wouldn’t even care. And when a branch caught her jacket, Nepeta tumbled to the dirt with a small hiccup. Her eyes were burning, heartbeat thrumming and hands shaking as she laid there half on a small patch of grass. When the sun rose she could find her way home. She guessed she just needed to be alone.
A few shuffled bushes in the distance snapped her out of her haze, the girl sitting up. Black fur caught her vision, a shadow of a midnight blue that made her hair stand on end.
“How nice of you to fucking finally show up!” She yelled, squeezing her eyes shut. “God Zahhak, you’re such a fucking prick! You had me believe things were going to get better, a-and then you go and do shit like this!” She couldn’t even stumble through his name, she just yelled and yelled. “I hate you sometimes! I honest to god hate you! You used to be my best friend, and now it’s like you’re my mortal enemy!” Nepeta pushed herself to her feet, watching the black fur circle around the small clearing she stood in.
“What, now you can’t even face me?!” With a exasperated yell Nepeta gave a running leap, shifting into her wolf self and taking Equius down onto the earth, snarls and growls in place of words.
Just face it! You’re done with me, and I’m done with you!
Talk to me already! Say something! What kind of asshole do you think you are!
A new voice bloomed in Nepeta’s mind. Her green eyes meet his blue ones, the black wolf giving a guttural growl as he spoke to her.
Not the asshole you think I am.
She froze, eyes widening as the wolf threw her off, Nepeta rolling along the dirt before he jumped again, now on top of Nepeta and snapping his jaw. His was steaming, Nepeta freezing for just a moment before she fought back.
His teeth sunk into her neck, making her howl until she raked her claws down his stomach, and swiping his foot out from under him. He was top heavy, faulting as Nepeta leapt again, tackling him and rolling down a small hill and landing with the two snarling and clawing and biting and scratching. It was a long fight, Nepeta again and again tearing into him, the black wolf trying to play defensive. He was using his bigger size to little avail as Nepeta was quicker, and soon the both of them were injured; another howl interrupting them.
Another auburn wolf was now at the top of the hill, Meulin’s voice screaming in both of their minds.
GET THE HELL AWAY FROM MY SISTER.
She started sprinting down, the black wolf taking the hint and retreating a few steps before he disappeared into the night. The woods fell quiet, Nepeta looking up from her spot on the ground to see Meulin watch the threat vanish, Nepeta taking note of the black fur that stood putrid against her light and golden brown. When she was satisfied he wouldn’t be coming back, Meulin turned back to her half sister. Meulin shifted back as best she could, slower and seemingly more painful than Nepeta could, before stumbling over and greeting Nepeta, who laid on the ground.
“Nepeta, Nep talk to me,”
“No, Nep you’re hurt, oh my god, we need to get you back to the house, do you have any idea who that was?”
No, I thought he was Equius but…
“I’ll tell you about Equius once you’re human again, come on and change back.” Meulin stroked Nepeta’s fur, pulling her sister up as she changed. She clung to Meulin, bite on her neck bleeding onto her shirt and head wound making her dizzy. “How are you feeling? How bad is it?” Meulin spoke, slipping one of Nepeta’s arms over her shoulders.
Hurts like hell. Well at least she was honest. It was close but I was winning, I got him bad in the stomach. Nepeta spit on the earth, head swaying just a little bit.
“That’s my girl.” Meulin smiled weakly, beginning their long walk back to the house.
The house was quiet after Meulin left, each silently deciding not to mess with a fight like that. Instead, Gamzee and Karkat took their seats on the couch, Karkat playing amateur doctor as the seagoat spread across his lap.
“Hey asshole, sit up before you overheat on my goddamn lap.” Karkat swore, gently shoving Gamzee’s shoulder. He looked up, that same stupid smile on his lips.
“Catsis said somethin’ ‘bout translating, right?” He asked almost dopily, sitting up on his own- after Karkat pulled him up and practically smashed him into the back of the couch.
“Yeah, you know seadweller?” Karkat asked, mindlessly cleaning up a few nicks and cuts on Gamzee’s hands. They seemed to stop bleeding before he made it to the house--there was no blood on him but that could be from the water too--but Karkat did his best to clean and bandage them. His hands were bruised, more bruises decorating his skin and almost coating the seagoat as he sat and attempted to avoid the dense air that surrounded the not-werewolves of the house.
“Know some. Not much but I can try.” He replied, laying his head on the back of the couch, a bubbling cough escaping his lips as Karkat gave a solid thwap to his sternum. He lurched forward, more hacking coughs until he managed to catch a breath.
“Alright, just don’t… fucking die before you read it.” Karkat grumbled, standing up and picking up the small notebook Kanaya had returned. He flipped it open, and nearly smacked his new friend in the face before he took it in his hands.
Gamzee hummed, oohed and ahhed but after a few seconds spoke. “Know some of the words, know that one is Sha, means so. Pi- Pismento- Piesmeithol. That’s desperate.” Gamzee seemed to really struggle with a few of the other words, but hey, to everyone else the words weren’t even words.
“I can’t tell you what it’s big on sayin’, but that might be ‘cause of the drowning.” He mumbled, handing back the notebook and crossing his arms. He suddenly seemed smaller, shoulders hunching in. “I can tell you some of the letters, then you can play some fuckin’ Scrabble or something.” He gave an acute cough and sank into the couch cushions.
“Okay, so all we have is ‘so,’ and ‘desperate.’” Karkat grumbled, setting the scribble down on the table. “Think you might remember more once you rest?”
“Maybe.” Gamze finally seemed to lower the big smiling appearance he held, closing his eyes and taking a few deep breaths.
“Well, you can stay on the couch for the night even though it’s practically fucking morning already. Try to rest some.” Karkat swore quietly, noticing Gamzee’s shift in personas. “I’ll get you some water and leave you be.”
“I’m not your fucking brother.” Karkat grumbled, still taking care of Gamzee anyway.
When Meulin and Nepeta made it through the front door, Nepeta falling to the floor with no more than a few groans, Gamzee was unconscious on the couch and seemingly out like a light. Tavros was the one who came barreling out of the hallway, Kanaya stepping out after. They picked her up, Meulin watching hesitantly.
“As much as I would like to let everyone wait until morning, we have news."
“Y-You ran out from a fight, what the-the hell happened!?” Tavros snapped, pressing hands against Nepeta’s bleeding neck, smearing blood and trying not to cry.
“There’s another werewolf in this forest.” Meulin spoke, heaving breaths deep in her chest.
“And it is safe to assume this other werewolf is the one who has done this harm to Nepeta?” Kanaya asked, kneeling and pulling the girl onto her lap. “I am going to lick you.” She mumbled, leaning down and briefly wiping away some of the leaking blood to better observe the extent of her injuries. Nepeta watched weakly, clinging to the vampire and whining when Kanaya’s deft yet rough tongue found the smaller cuts.
“Yes, he attacked her.”
“W-was it one of the clans from around the state?” Tavros asked, holding one of Nepeta’s hands.
“I…” Meulin’s voice died down. “I think so.” She was hesitant, especially after Equius’ explosion in the summer, and their two week grounding. “He worked alone, that I can tell though.”
“Wolfsense.” She replied, “That’s the way we can communicate away from audible speech. No one else spoke to him, and he didn’t speak to anyone.”
“He spoke to me.” Nepeta mumbled in return. “He sounded like…” Her voice died down as Kanaya paused her work, licking her lips and some of the stray blood from Nepeta’s neck.
The room went quiet for a few moments, a stray voice eventually catching Meulin’s attention.
Did you find her?
How nice of you to finally fucking care.
You nice of you to go off and suck face with your human mate as my sister almost fucking died.
Meulin and Equius spoke, threats and quips back and forth until Nepeta managed to tune in.
You… you were with Ayako? Even in her wolfsense her voice broke on the sentence, a brief pause hanging between the three speaking on their own wavelength.
Nepeta, it is not as it sounds.
I think it’s pretty clear. Meulin said, I found her. She’s hurt but she’s alive.
Why don’t you come see what you did yourself? We’re at the house. And with that Meulin shut off, kneeling down around Nepeta alongside Tavros, watching Kanaya slowly seal up the worse bites and scratches, Nepeta chewing on her lip as the vampire went.
When the front door opened again, it was Equius, stern and silent and with a faded rust red smudge on his cheek. His face dropped when he noticed the crowd of bodies on the floor in the mainroom, and he fell to knees when he saw the bloodstains adorning Nepeta’s shirt and face. Her dark skin was blooming maroon, each freckle and dimple distorted by swelling or bruising.
“Are you proud of yourself?” Meulin asked, balling her fists in her skirt. “Are you happy with this?” Her shoulders shook and angry, betrayed tears dripped onto the fabric.
“I made my choice. I trusted Nepeta to return to the house when I could not find her.” He lied, god he lied through his teeth as the cold sense of dread and fear slid through his heart.
“As if you care about her.” Meulin hiccuped. “I haven’t seen her in years and I love her more than you ever will.”
“We are in two completely different situations Leijon, you had best not start comparing us.” Equius watched quietly, letting out a breath when Nepeta stirred on Kanaya’s lap.
“Thank you Kanaya.” She murmured, vision swimming the littlest bit as she looked over at Meulin and Equius. “When did we get back?”
“Must be the blood loss.” Tavros mumbled, patting Nepeta’s hand he still held. “Glad you’re coherent.”
“Why were you with Ayako? Why?” She asked, eyes unfocusing. With no more than a pause, Meulin acted, pulling Nepeta onto her own lap and burying the young wolf’s face in her shoulder.
They both seemed to cry, and Kanaya gave a curt nod before making herself scarce. They cried, heartbreaking whines and whimpers just sitting right there on the main room floor, and Equius could only sit and watch.
Tavros stood after a few minutes, mumbling something about getting her to bed, and gently took Nepeta from Meulin, leading the smaller girl back to their shared room. Nepeta leaned on him, and his hooves clacking down the hallway struck something primal in Equius as he sat.
He really couldn’t protect her.
“All you’re doing is breaking her.” Meulin sniffled, wiping her nose on her sweater sleeve. “Breaking her down again and again and she can’t handle it Equius.”
“I am doing no such thing, Nepeta and I are in less than perfect relations but we are still-”
“Don’t you dare fucking say best friends.” Meulin’s words were harsh and sharp. “You missed her birthday. One afternoon couldn’t make up for that.”
“I have been doing my best to balance my relationships, I cannot devote all of my time to Nepeta as I once did.” His words were defense if anything, he knew deep down that something was wrong between them since he blew up at her the first time.
“That’s bullshit and you know it.” Meulin growled, Equius looking up from his kneeling position. She threw herself to her feet, glaring down at the young man kneeling in front of her. “You’re breaking her heart.”
“Her heart is none of my-” Equius was cut off by a sudden and painful smack, knocking his glasses onto the floor beside him. He looked down, watching them skitter across the floor.
“Shut your fucking mouth. You need to quit being a dick! Can’t you see it? Can’t you see how that human is manipulating you?!”
“You keep Ayako out of this.”
“Oh, so you’ll jump to her defense but not my fucking sister’s !? How interesting!” Meulin yelled, watching as Equius stood now too. He voice broke, splintering and hands shaking. “Nepeta isn’t someone you can sideline! I thought after your years of friendship you would realize that! You’re crushing her heart, she thinks she’s being replaced! You’re abandoning her when she needs you, and making it worse when you won’t even let her help you!”
Meulin yelled loud now, unabridged as Equius’ face sunk again, looking down and unable to meet eyes with her.
“You’re all she has you jackass, you’re the world to her! And you’re killing her!” She swatted now, long nails cutting into Equius’ cheek and dragging down until ripping free from his jaw. She didn’t waste a second, quickly going to fists, punching and smacking and hitting with everything she had. Equius didn’t fight back, not a stone’s throw or a deflected word as he let Meulin pummel him, clotheslining him to the floor.
“God! I fucking hate you!” Her voice was raw with emotions, hitching as tears ran rampant down her cheeks. “I hate you for what you’re doing to her! Because I know she never will!”
Equius laid on the hardwood floor, eyes unfocused as he let Meulin finish, Karkat rushing down the stairs to take Meulin into a tight hug. He held her, gentle pressures and murmurs as he led her to her shared room. He pressed a tissue to her now bleeding nose, and Equius stayed on the floor.
Some sort of fog cleared in his mind, a crushing sense of dread in each moment he mentioned Ayako and he could see Nepeta’s face fall. Each time he abandoned her, going to the town or Ayako’s home and leaving Nepeta to her own devices. He knew she started hurting herself again, and he did nothing. He couldn’t protect her in the river, now in the woods. He was losing her. Pale tears wormed down his own cheeks now, sullen silence crushing his heart.
God what was going to happen.
Chapter 10: Chapter 9
A little long but I wanted to give the kids some happiness for a chapter, also pardon if the editing is strange, uploading from an optometrist's office
His cheek continued to burn as Equius sat up many minutes later. He wiped his eyes as best he could, and felt the burning and aching of were he let Meulin wail on him. Yeah, yeah he deserved it though. When he rose to his feet, Gamzee too rose from his laying position on the couch.
“Sup?” He smiled dumbly, watching Equius walk to the kitchen and gather the small first aid kit.
“Go back to bed seagoat.”
“I did not ask.” Equius spoke, wiping his cheek with a small wince.
“You an’ catsis done fighting?” He asked, pulling his legs up to hug his knees.
Equius gave a grunt, and checked over himself again before putting the kit away and pulling his hair back into it’s low ponytail. “I… I am going to remedy the situation.” Equius gave a small sigh, rubbing his eyes.
Gamzee nodded from the couch, laying back down and almost immediately falling back asleep. Equius blinked a few times, watching the seagoat pass out, only evidence he even awoke being his recollection. And with a few deep breaths, Equius walked along the familiar path to Nepeta’s--now Nepeta and Meulin’s--room. His hand hovered on the door knob, listening to his heartbeat thrumming in his chest and for any movement on the other side of the door.
“You can come in, I know you’re out there.” Her voice was quiet, barely audible over his strained ears.
Equius pushed the door open, standing in the doorway and looking over at Nepeta. She was hunched over, hands pulling one of her sheets tight around her, Tavros sitting beside her and trying to soothe her. Meulin and Karkat seemed to have gone to Karkat’s room, and as Equius swallowed his spit Tavros whispered something to Nepeta. He gave her a gentle kiss on the cheek, and a brief squeeze before standing and sliding out of her room.
“I….” Equius voice died down, his words wouldn’t form and his palms were sweating. “It’s…”
“I heard Meulin yelling.” Nepeta filled the empty silence, words Equius couldn’t seem to find.
“I can assume the entire house heard her.” Equius said, a twinge of spite.
“We don’t have to talk about this, it’s really fine.” Nepeta tightens her grip on the sheet, shying away from Equius’ dark frame in her room. The small light on er table cast long shadows across the dark room, the sky outside the window threatening to lighten before they even started their conversation.
“No, we do. You’ve been distant with me; you’re lying and hiding from me.” His words were abrasive, somehow ignorant making Nepeta huff a fake laugh. “What did I do?”
Nepeta looked up from her arms, instead peering at his shadow. “What didn’t you do?” Her voice is shaking, eyes threatening to bubble over. “You weren’t there Equius. It’s as simple as that.” She buried her face again in the roughed up sheet, fighting back hiccups and tears.
“I did my best to make up for it, we spent the day after your birthday together.”
“It’s not that simple, Meulin was right. It wasn’t just my birthday, okay?” Her voice struggled to reach him, and Nepeta eventually flung the sheet from her shoulders with a huff. “You’re replacing me. I don’t know what else there is to say.”
“Nepeta I am not replacing you, I could never do that.”
“Then, why do you spend so much time with Ayako? Why is she more important than me?”
“Nepeta, my relationships are not to be ranked, she is no more important to me than you are. She is just important in a different way.” Equius spoke carefully, gauging his friends reactions as he did.
“Because she makes you think with the wrong head?”
Equius coughed, choking on a breath. “Nepeta, how dare you-”
“You know it’s true!” He arms were up, waving around in some attempt to expel the anxious energy that settled to heavy on her chest. “I get it, romance isn’t normally your thing! I understand! But- But you’re pushing me away!”
“I am trying to balance spending time with Ayako and spending time with you.”
“No, okay, n-no. When you broke down, after you found the note... I tried to comfort you! I-I wanted to help make everything feel better!”
“I was afraid the clans had found us Nepeta, I needed time to breathe.”
“But, you always used to like it when I took care of you. That’s why we work so well together Eq, I help take care of you and you help take care of me.” Nepeta almost writhed in her jacket, uncomfortable in the situation she found herself in. “But, when you wouldn’t let me take care of you, I thought you were done with me.”
“I’m so sorry Nepeta.” His voice was quiet as he stepped forward, slowly taking his seat on the end of the small bed. “I did not anticipate that my actions would cause this much pain between us. I can assure you, I am not nor will I ever be ‘done with you’.” The two paused for breath, room falling silent again.
“Why does she hate me?” Nepeta asked quietly, barely audible even in the deafening silence. “I want you to be happy, I do. But she hates me. And she wants to take you away.” Nepeta curled in on herself again, Equius hesitantly reaching out. His hand met her shoulder, jacket torn and bloodstained.
“Ayako doesn’t hate you Nepeta, she isn’t like that.”
“But.. But…” The tears started to fall from her eyes, hiccups breaking her speech as Nepeta broke down on the bed.
“Shhhh.” Equius rumbled, quiet and gentle as he moved to pull Nepeta into his chest, the girl complying as she cried. “No, I’m sure of it. Nepeta if it really bothers you that Ayako and I are dating, I’ll call it off.” He nestled his nose into her curly hair, rubbing her shoulders as she started to sob into him.
Really? Her voice caught him off guard, but the uncontrollable sobbing into his chest helped it make sense.
I don’t want to break you up Eq… I just… I miss you.
I am going to be right here. I am not going anywhere, it will just be the two of us. And I will be better about spending time with you. Real time.
The sun was beginning the earliest stages of its rising when Nepeta managed to calm, lulled into a sleep by her friends low rumbling hums and strong deep heartbeat.
When Meulin opened the bedroom door the following morning expecting the worst, a small smile danced across her lips.
The two eventually rose, soft giggles and strong hugs as they meandered into the kitchen for food. Equius reached into the icebox through the window, gathering some snacks. When Karkat entered the food, leaning on the counter beside Nepeta, he gave a soft smile.
“Glad you two have worked out your issues.” He finger combed his hair, Nepeta giving the biggest and brightest grin he had seen in weeks.
“I was, well I was talking to Kanaya this morning while everyone was asleep.”
Equius set a plate of food down in front of Nepeta, making himself a bowl of salad. “I do believe everyone was a bit charged last night, I cannot imagine it was difficult for you two to have the morning to yourselves.”
“Yeah, yeah sure asshole. Anyway, we were talking about maybe going away for a little bit.”
“Like, you two going to visit one of Kanaya’s kin?” Nepeta asked between mouthfuls, tapping her feet against the stool rest. Warm light bled into the room from the now open window, a chill breeze almost putting the usually heated discussions on cooldown.
“No, like a vacation. Meulin and Tavros have been around for long enough to trust them, and we were thinking maybe a little space from town would help everyone anyway.” Karkat gave a small shrug. “If you guys don’t want to that’s okay, we were thinking a few of us could head a few hours over. You know, the busy as hell place with the boardwalk and the really good fry stand?”
“A beach trip!” Nepeta cheered. “The oceans around here suck dick but down south where it’s populated there’s no seadwellers!”
Equius tensed just briefly, “But of course, a beach trip.”
“Hey, it’s not like we could send all of us to some huge city inland, stick Tavros in a wheelchair or something and then everyone else can pass as human.”
“-And we don’t even have to spend all day on the beach! We can go to the arcades or the ice cream stands!” Nepeta rattled off, patting her hands against her jeans.
“See, Nepeta’s got the right idea.” Karkat smiled, looking up at Equius. “Are you so terribly against it?”
After a great many moments of silence, Equius spoke again. “It’s not exactly beach time anymore, but I don’t see the harm in it.”
“So what kinda sunblock will you need, Mr. still afraid to go outside?” Nepeta chided, giving Karkat a gentle elbow to his side. “I don’t want our karkitty frying alive because of his baby vamp skills.”
“I’m actually not going asshole.” He spoke, gently pushing Nepeta with his forearm, trying to hide his smile behind a grimace. “Somebody’s gotta stay back, and we can’t just leave Gamzee alone.”
“What?! Then why did you want to plan a trip if you’re not going?” Nepeta whined, “It’s not as much fun when we’re split up.”
“You all are still gonna have fun, dumbass. You, your sister, Zahhak and Tavros. It’ll be nice.”
“You are comfortable with staying here alone with Gamzee, and protecting the house for a few days?” Equius asked incredulously.
“No shit Zahhak, if I wasn’t cool with it I wouldn’t’ve suggested it.”
“Hey, where is Gamzee anyway?” Nepeta asked, glancing over her shoulders at the empty main room.
“I made the jackass take a shower.” Karkat mumbled. “Smelled like salt water and soda pollution.”
“And you are sure?”
“Fuck, yes I am sure. ” Karkat growled, repeating Equius’ sentence with a haughty accent to imitate him, making Nepeta snort a laugh. “That other wolf doesn’t know where the house is, I can pass as human if any townies come over, and I can still fight better than someone like Tavros, who can’t stay standing for half an hour. Kanaya and I were thinking you all could leave tomorrow, think you could pack small enough to catch a bus?”
“Ol’ blue back there ready to go yet?” Nepeta asked, cheekily. Equius shot her a harmless glare, sticking his tongue out.
“He will be finished and functional when I finish.” Reaching over Equius flicked her nose, making the both of them laugh.
“Alright, glad you’re on board. I’m gonna go make sure Gamzee didn’t fucking drown in the shower outside.” Karkat spoke, hearing the shower outside slow and eventually stop. He left, Equius and Nepeta talking and laughing as the afternoon progressed. Tavros and Meulin returned from their walk outside, giddy to talk of the new trip.
Karkat stood outside the shower, smacking Gamzee in the face with a towel as he stuck his head out from the stall.
“Oh hey there Karbro!” He took the towel, stepping out and beginning to dry off. “Heard we were gonna be all alone for a while.”
“Glad your ears aren’t so clogged with starfish you’re deaf. They’re gonna leave tomorrow and we’ll be here till they get back. You’re not allowed to leave but we can work on your memory of ikawai in the meantime.”
“Sounds miraculous, hope I can help Meu ‘n catsis.” Gamzee spoke, running a too long hand down his curling horn. “Got any noms?”
“Jesus fucking christ I’ll find some food if you promise to never say shit like that again.”
“Can do.” The two bickered, one sided as it was until Gamzee re-dressed and they returned inside.
“I hear it’s supposed to be nice tomorrow! Like really warm for, like the time of year it is.” Tavros smiled, sitting at the counter beside Nepeta with his face lit up like a christmas tree.
“From what?” None of us have phones.” Meulin laughed, watching Tavros blink.
“The bird that landed on my horn while we were walking!” He defended, “It told me!” Nepeta blinked herself, before nodding.
“You talk to birds?! Dude what the hell, that’s awesome!” Meulin spoke, clapping her hands.
“Haha, more than birds, I can commune with anything in the animal kingdom.”
“I think he’s already talking to a bunch of dogs anyway.” Karkat snarked, swatting away Nepeta’s weak punch and grinned through the chorus--or howls-- of ‘boo’s’ from the werewolves.
“Awh come on it was good! It was good!”
“Boo! Poor taste!” Equius yelled back, throwing a dish towel over the counter and catching Karkat’s face. Gamzee let himself smile, skittering over and pulling his too long mess of limbs to sit on the countertop.
They talked, joked and smiled into the evening, Kanaya cooking up a few small dishes for everyone, instructing those travelling to be up early, pack tonight, and bring everything they believe they should need. She took Tavros and Equius aside and explained their special situation; Tavros was to walk as best he could and they would rent a wheelchair at the boardwalk but if Tavros was to fall Equius would carry him. The two nodded, and Tavros smiled thanking Equius, Eq himself giving a thumbs up and a small grin. The party slowly dimmed, each member packing a small bag as best they could, Kanaya surprising Meulin with a swimsuit and the two new house members with extra beachy clothes.
The next morning Nepeta was the first awake, pulling Meulin out of bed and stampeding into Equius’ room. Soon enough everyone awoke, drawstring bags and beach bags filled with the little they had. Kanaya left instructions for Karkat if anything were to occur, practically mothering him as she left, being drug out of the front door by Meulin.
“Bye Karkat! Be back either tonight or tomorrow!” The deaf girl yelled, finally getting Kanaya off the porch with a laugh. Karkat and Gamzee gave waves as the five made it to the town bus stop, catching a greyhound with Kanaya supplying the money for their tickets down.
The bus ride was long, mainly empty due to the early hour as they rode, bumping elbows and telling old terrible jokes to each other and the driver. By the time they arrived, Tavros was going slow down the steps off as Kanaya stopped to thank the driver, giving a small ‘oh’ as he handed her five passes for their ride back, good for a month.
“Have fun out there, anyone that makes an old croon like me laugh deserves a happy day.”
Kanaya descended the stairs smiling, ushering thank yous as she finally exited. Perhaps getting away for a little bit was good for the house.
The five walked, catching the warm september sun as they ventured through the slowly awakening beachside town. Shop fronts were opening, food stands coming to life as Nepeta pointed at everything, Tavros watching as she explained everything she could remember. Eventually though the werewolves took off for the actual beach, old towels in hand as they marked out their spot for the day. Kanaya and Tavros found the visitor center, renting a wheelchair and happily finding an accessibility pathway down onto the sand, with their friends set up just at the end.
Nepeta had already stripped away her shorts, swimshirt and trunks catching Kanaya’s gaze as she gave a cartwheel across the sand, Equius running after her and giving a back handspring to which Nepeta was cheering. Kanaya smiled, taking her seat on her own towel, propping open a worn book and reading. Tavros watched the two in their feats until Nepeta scurried to the incoming tide, grabbing a handful of wet sand and slinging it at Equius’ back as he spoke to him. Equius turned, disposing of his glasses with Tavros--who was the one cheering now--before taking off and tackling Nepeta into the water. Meulin followed, standing at the water’s edge and yelling for Nepeta to kick his butt.
The sun rose, Nepeta and Equius calling a truce for the young man to take off after Meulin who had wandered to the empty volleyball net.
Nepeta set up shop with Tavros, the two drawing and sculpting in the sand, Nepeta’s clearly being made by an artist and Tavros’ more like the work of the children populating the beach. It was thankfully more empty than Kanaya was expecting, and after about an hour of reading she stood, stretched, and made her way to the two werewolves playing volleyball.
“I do believe I am not on par with either of you, but I wish to take part.”
“Me too!” Nepeta yelled, flinging sand as she stood and ran over. “I wanna play on Meulin’s team!” She lept onto the flat sand, giving her half sister a high five as Equius faked shock, giving Kanaya a small bow.
“It seems you and I are a team then.”
“Wonderful.” She replied, adjusting her sunhat and bathing suit. “Let’s kick some ass.” Meulin set the ball, Nepeta smacking it over for Equius to jump, swatting it back.
The two sisters seemed to talk without words, Meulin ducking down as Nepeta bunting it for Meulin to shoot up and spike it over the net. It hit the sand, spinning and bouncing as Tavros wheeled up the accessibility mat, whistling.
“Looks like now it’s heartless volleyball!”
“Wolfsense for volleyball? That’s cheap!” Equius grinned, picking up the ball and spinning it on his finger.
“Oh we can play dirty as well.” Kanaya smirked, “Serve it.”
Equius did, Meulin this time tapping it over and Kanaya bunting it back. Nepeta ran after it, looking like she was about to hit as Meulin tapped it from the side, a shallow spin just passing over the net. Equius reached, caught off guard as Kanaya somehow managed to be standing in just the right spot to spike it back, the ball nearly tunneling into the sand.
Equius blinked once, and then twice, before standing upright and giving a nod and a laugh, giving Kanaya a high five as the two laughed louder.
Nepeta booed from her side of the net, Tavros jumping to their defense. “If wolfsense is on the table then so is future vision!” He laughed too now, Nepeta and Meulin squaring up for another game.
Meulin and Kanaya were content to stay on the beach, calling over an umbrella as Tavros, Nepeta and Equius took off for the boardwalk arcades, Nepeta swinging around the small pouch of dollar coins she had saved for an occasion such as this.
As it turned out, Equius was incredibly gifted at skeeball, and Tavros won something from every claw machine he attempted- he showed and explained which machines were possible to win from and taught the two a few things.
Nepeta and Kanaya found a wonderful fried food stand, the five gathering for lunch and a sun warmed set up on the boardwalk. They ate, talking about life and memories as the temperature began to drop again, sun settling down. The boardwalk began to spring to life as evening started, signs lighting up and restaurants opening for the dinner rush.
Quickly though the house realized they were not exactly the nightlife people, rolling up towels and patting down the stray sand as they walked away from the beach and deeper into town. Tavros and Meulin were the two to suggest staying the night, better than catching a late bus and arriving at the house in the darkest hours of the morning. They found a small bed and breakfast, sky blue painted walls and a large open porch as they entered. It was surprisingly cheap, more people as it turned out were staying at the larger hotels in the business center deep in the city.
Two rooms and five sleeping mythics later, the sun rose. The group tipped the hotel, returned the wheelchair, and once again boarded the greyhound home.
“I can’t believe I didn’t get sunburned!” Nepeta grinned, checking over her shoulders and arms thanks to her tank top.
“I agree, it is preposterous.” Equius grumbled, looking at the hot blistering skin on his own shoulders.
“Total bullshit.” Meulin echoed, rubbing her darkened cheeks and wincing.
“Well thank god Tavros reminded me when we were building sand castles.” She said, reaching over and giving the lad a high five.
Kanaya nodded sagely, “Not everyone can be as lucky as me in regards to natural sun protection.”
“Count your lucky stars count,” Meulin chided, Kanaya giving a fake gasp.
The bus ride home was short, bookended with laughs and thank yous until the five reached the town. And with a few strange stares they walked the small path to their forest. But the housemates smiled, enjoying the once again cool air of small town.
Chapter 11: Chapter 10
The walk was calm, nice until they reached the normally fair distance from the town. The house stood as it ever did, but long white wisps in the trees around, raising more than a few eyebrows as they neared.
“Oh my god,” Meulin breathed, Nepeta and Kanaya running off ahead as the diamond house came into view. Toilet paper littered the trees around their shack, and as the five approached, even worse appeared. The house was vandalized, profanities painted on the house in huge bubbling letters. The windows were shattered, trash and carvings polluting the porch as everyone ascended the stairs.
“Karkat! Karkat!” Kanaya yelled, tearing through the main room and bolting up the stairs. Tavros shakily followed, the three werewolves standing, taking in the torn couch and the two pieces of their front door now lodged in a wall.
“Kanaya, fucking hell; we’re in here, we’re both okay.” Karkat wheezed, standing with Gamzee’s help as Kanaya nearly ripped the door to Karkat’s bedroom open. Her chest was heaving, before she let out a small gasp.
“It’s not as bad as it looks.” He spoke quietly, giant bruise spread half across his cheekbone, left eye swelling like someone hit him with a chair leg or a baseball bat.
“Karkat, that’s really fucking bad, holy shit.” Tavros spoke, voice hushed. The smaller vampire clung to Gamzee, wearing his own but smaller battle wounds.
“I was trying to help Kanaya feel better prick.” He breathed, “I know damn well it hurts like hell.” Gamzee gave a rolling chitter, holding on tightly as Karkat wobbled on his feet, Kanaya rushing forward and taking his other side. “I got blindsided.”
“Who did this? The house is destroyed, what even happened?” Kanaya asked, taking Karkat up in her arms with an uncharacteristic lack of fight and valor.
“I can’t… fucking remember.” Karkat mumbled, deep red staining Kanaya’s swimsuit cover up. “Everything was going fine, and then…”
Gamzee tried to fill in, following Kanaya down the stairs in his own rush. “I thought it was maybe that wolf from yesterday but it sounded like a few people, I got fuckin’ scared and then they broke the door down.” He hunched in on himself, Tavros offering a hand on the seagoats shoulders.
“It was the townies?!” Nepeta yelled, turning to catch the four talking as they descended the stairs. “I’ll fucking-” Her voice caught as her eyes met Karkat’s. “I’ll fucking kill them!”
“Wait, how… how do we know?” Equius asked, doing his best to hide his furtive glances at Karkat’s wounds.
“Gamzee’s the only one who can remember, we’ll have to rely on him.” Kanaya spoke, sitting Karkat down on the shredded couch. “And we will not stand for humans barging into our home, defacing our property, and harming our family.” Kanaya spoke shakily, eventually letting her words out in a powerful yell.
The group fell quiet, Meulin taking off to the Leijon bedroom, dressing in her real set of clothes. Kanaya sat on the torn couch, looking over the head wounds Karkat carried, and the defensive wounds on his arms and chest. “As much as… But as much as I wish to run into town filleting who hurt us, I know that we can’t. We need to get the house fixed up.”
“Kanaya I’ve got to-” Nepeta yelled now, and every house member knew her next words before she could even finish.
“You are not going into town and picking a fight with every rude person you find Nepeta, that won’t help anyone. Especially not Karkat.” Equius took her by the wrist, trying to calm her confusion.
“We’ve gotta Eq! They- they…” Her words were failing her, “And those fucking humans did this! They did all of this!”
“It could have just been a few high schoolers playing pranks, or a stupid bet,” Equius scrambled just slightly for answers.
“Are you… defending them?” Nepeta asked, pulling her hand back.
“I am just saying, all we can do right now is fix what’s been broken. There is no benefit in going through town raising trouble.”
“Yeah, I’m sure it’s not because you might know who did this.” Nepeta laughed weakly.
“Nepeta, you don’t even know what you are saying; you’re overclocked.” Equius ground his teeth, watching Nepeta sling mud. “Ayako has nothing to do with this.”
“How do you know?” Nepeta spoke, gesturing to the ruined main room. Equius was about to respond when she gave out, shaking her hands with a whine and taking off for her bedroom.
“She’s still got issues with the human.” Tavros spoke, walking around and picking up the smaller pieces of trash and doing what he could.
“That I can see.” Equius growled, walking to the dividing wall and pulling out the half of the front door that had been lodged in it. “I… I love Ayako, I know she wouldn’t do something like this.”
“And I believe you man, it’s just…”
“No, I understand. I’m going to the attic to see if we have any extra paint cans for the siding.” Equius took off, leaving Tavros to his work. Meulin took his place soon though, she and Tavros moving outside to take down what toilet paper they could. The spray paint was gaudy, expletives on the walls and windows. But with a few swears, the paint wasn’t going to come off and they returned inside.
“You said you heard the yelling and then they broke down the door, correct?” Kanaya asked, one hand in Karkat’s hair as he laid on the couch.
Gamzee nodded, fidgeting with his shirt. “They kicked the door open and came in, a-and I was walking up the stairs before I ran up to Karkat, he had me hide in the closet-” He tripped over his words a bit, taking a deep breath. “One of them said something and Karkat drew his claws and then another motherfucker barged through and hit him.
“I stayed in there until they left the room and then I drug Karbro into the closet and waited until they left. I kept him ‘n I in there until y’all came back. I couldn’t fight, I can’t pass as human and there’d be more trouble if they found me.” His words were a defense mechanism, but he still bled guilt. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
“There was nothing you could do.” Kanaya spoke quietly, taking a few deep breaths. “Equius thank you for collecting the paint.”
Equius descended the stairs, about to announce his discovery before nodding. “Yes, if a few other people can begin painting with what little paint we have left, I can head to the local college workshop and see if I cannot haggle a few panes of glass into our possession. At least fix a few of the windows.” He set the half full can of paint on the floor, dropping the old brush on the metal lid.
Nepeta cautiously stepped out of her room, stuffing her hands in her jacket pockets. “I can paint. Or go with him, I mean whatever needs to get done needs to get done.” Her voice was soft, and she looked down. “I’m sorry about blowing up Eq.” She whispered, walking to stand next to Equius.
“I do not wish to say it is okay, because I know it is not. But I accept your apology.” He whispered back, taking Nepeta’s hand in his own. “We’ll talk about your relationship with Ayako later.”
“You can go at a later date. I think we all need some time to unwind from the day’s events. Meulin if you could retrieve my emergency sewing kit I could at least work on fixing the couch cushions. Karkat, are you coherent?” Kanaya seemed to have three different conversations at once, ending all but the most important as Karkat roused from her lap.
“Yeah Kanaya… yeah, just hard to think. Hurts.” Karkat’s face began to neutral out from it’s angry inflamed red, sickening greens and maroons rising to his tan skin. His left eye was indeed swollen, Gamzee letting loose a chorus of chitters and whimpers as Karkat surveyed the damage with gentle presses.
“I don’t remember a single fucking thing, god it feels like Pinocchio's sticking his wooden splintery dick right in my eye socket.” Karkat rubbed his arms, clenching and unclenching his hands. “Gamzee do you-?”
“He already explained what happened, just relax.” Kanaya pressed his shoulders back into the couch, Karkat looking up at the ceiling. “And you don’t remember anything?”
“Nothing at all, I already said it. I’m sorry I couldn’t protect the house, fuck you guys went out for one day and come back to the place trashed and me with a giant head wound, I can’t even manage to do something as simple as keep house, this is one of the most embarrassing moments of my undead life.” His voice broke just slightly, covering his unswollen eye with his sweater sleeve.
“I would rather need new windows than lose you.” Kanaya spoke, voice calm and smooth as she rubbed up and down Karkat’s side.
“She’s right Karkat, you did what you could.” Meulin was standing up next, also moving to the couch to comfort her wounded friend. “We could be so much worse off if something bad happened to you.”
“Something bad did happen asshole, I got beat to hell.”
Gamzee made a guttural whimper, rubbing his tiny wounds that matched the smallest of Karkat’s.
“Oh great, now fuckhands mcmike over there is getting even more pitiful.”
“Karbro I’m sorry, I’m sorry I couldn’t- I did-”
“Do we just need a giant cuddle pile for everyone to calm down or something?”
“I thought that’s what we were already doing!” Meulin said, picking Karkat up and resting him on her lap while she took his original seat on the couch. “There we go, better now.”
Tavros gave a small whistle, tapping his hoof on the floor before giving a wave. “I’m gonna see if any animals around here know what happened to that other wolf. Don’t let me interrupt you guys.” He took off, closing the door to his room and settling down for the afternoon.
Nepeta meanwhile held Equius’ hand, gentle as she thought long and hard on why everything was now definitely, absolutely going wrong now. She mouthed three little words to herself, glancing out the now broken window towards the cliff face, and the ocean.
Meanwhile in the frigid waters, a certain seadweller had swum up to the beach, peeking her head out of the water for just a moment before giving a sigh. Careful as ever Feferi dove back down, deep and away from the pebbly shoreline.
A quick shape flitted into her vision, circling her in a blink.
“Eridan!” She whined, pressing a hand to her chest. “You scared the glub outta me!” Her words were distorted by the water, rolling chitters and clicks as she spoke in seadweller.
“Heh, sorry not sorry Fef. What were you doing at that shore? You’ve been goin’ up there a lot the past while.” Eridan’s hair fluttered in the water, purple streak catching Feferi’s attention.
“Is it that wrong to wanna sea some land creatures every once in a whale?” Feferi puffed her cheeks, gills following suit.
“Oh fuckin’ god, the sea puns just get worse.” Eridan whined, floating a bit back and whirling his deep violet tail. The iridescent scales shimmered in the warped sunlight that reflected in the water, blinding Feferi just briefly.
“Why do you always do that?” She whined this time.
“Vengeance.” He grinned, sharp shark teeth making Feferi smile too.
“Hey, weren’t you up there talking to a landdweller a few months ago anyway? Why’re you getting all up in my business?” Feferi asked as she shined her own scales.
“Fef, did you even see him? He was the peak of landdweller, he even gave me his name.” A suggestive eyebrow wiggle only roused more confusion.
“I never understood what your deal with names was about.” Her clicks and warbles went low pitched, adjusting one of her necklaces.
“Name’s have a lot ‘a power Fef,”
“I mean, I guess I understand?”
“No, a name bond is putting your trust in the other person. It’s sayin’ ‘If I betray you, you have my name. You can find me an’ kick the shit out of me.’” Eridan spoke, clicking his ring clad fingers together. “Names have a lot of power when you’re not as trusting as you .” He swam closer to her, giving her arm a gentle bunt with his tail.
Feferi gave a small giggle, returning the action. “Hehe, yea I guess. So who’s the boy you’re crushing on?”
“I’m not fuckin’ crushin’ on a filthy legger!” Eridan yelled, crossing his arms against his scaly chest. “His name is really fuckin’ cool though… We could match.” He mumbled.
“Let’s hear it!”
Eridan gave a laugh, idly scratching his freckle covered cheek. “ ‘s name is Equius.”
Feferi’s face paled in just a way she could hide, blinking again and again. “Equius?”
“Yeah! Isn’t it cool!” Eridan grinned again, closing his eyes and pressing his cheeks in his hands. “I tried pitch flirting with him, I think he really hates me, it’s so fuckin’ romantic.”
“Is… Is he a werewolf?” Feferi asked, voice tilted a little bit as she thought of Nepeta. She and Nepeta had laid on the beach, talking about friends, family, dreams, plans, everything under the stars and Equius was a name she mentioned frequently. Equius was her best friend, her soulmate, someone who made Nepeta smile and talk about him with pride. Equius was a huge part of the diamond house.
“Yeah, how’d you know?” Eridan seemed to return to earth, looking over at his friend.
“I uh, I saw some landdwellers up on the beach, they turned into wolves and ran away.” Feferi lied gently, watching Eridan nod. “Fair to assume anyone who would talk to you would be a mythic like that. I know you’re weak for a hot bod like anyone else.”
“Fuckin’ rude.” Eridan pointedly did not refute. “Anyway, yeah. Do you remember at the beginning of summer too?”
“When you tried to prove you were big and bad enough to go up stream and you ended up swimming home with a broken nose and smelling like brackish water?” Feferi cooed, pouting her lips and making a movement to run her hands condescendingly through Eridan’s hair.
He swatted her hands away, “Not the point!” and crossed his arms before continuing. “When I attacked that werewolf, and the other one beat the shit out of me? The one that beat the shit out of me, it was Equius!”
Feferi spun the few rings on her fingers, a habit she picked up from Eridan.
“God, I attacked the bitch that got in the river, and he attacked me- and Equius an’ I were practically made to be pitch.”
“Other mythics don’t really use our version of romance.” Feferi spoke, feeling her gills tighten as her heart started to race. Stay calm, focus on Eridan, don’t show that you’re friends with a landdweller, one that is friends with someone possibly in danger, her mind was flooding with thoughts of how if Eridan managed to do something to Equius, her own relationship with Nepeta would enter a tail spin.
“Oh, I almost got him in the water, even if he didn’t get it I could show him.” Eridan grinned again, and Feferi’s blood ran colder. The sharp shark teeth were now so much more of a threat than ever before, and hastily falsifying an excuse Feferi swam back to her cluster, burying herself in seaweed.
A thought burrowed into her mind. What if after the conflict already, what if Nepeta was the one Eridan attacked in the river?
Her hair floated and rose in the water, Feferi shaking her head again and again. God how could things get much more complicated? Too many problems. Eridan and Equius, Nepeta being a landdweller but so kind, and not to mention Gamzee and...
“What, are you crying li’l guppy? You finna stop before I give you a reel reason to start crying.”
Tangling, thick tendrils of hair bleed into Feferi’s vision, and with a rumbling whimper the smaller seadweller whirled around.
“Don’t you speak to me like I’m some child Meulin,” Karkat mumbled, closing his eyes and still nestling himself against her collar.
“You know she can’t hear you but you’re still saving face?” Kanaya chided, working on fixing the couch cushions the fours still occupied.
“When she talks to me in that goddamn condescending way-” Karkat was cut off, Gamzee snapping upright, tugging Karkat into his lap and wrapping his arms around the vampire.
His voice fluttered, vision swimming as he mumbled, “Cond… Condes… Condesn..”
“Gamzee. Gamzee talk to me you fucking idiot,” Karkat pressed a hand to the seagoat’s chest, sitting up with Meulin moving closer and Kanaya watching carefully.
“Meulin motherfucking take off your shirt!” Tossing Karkat back into the couch cushion in an unexpected display of strength, Gamzee leant over to her, Meulin watching hesitantly for a moment. Eventually she stood, and took a seat on the small coffee table and pulled up her shirt back, revealing the twisting and harsh characters inked into her skin. Meulin winced when Gamzee’s slender and cold fingers wandered across her back, tracing a few characters.
“Yeah, yeah, there’s desperate, and…”
The two vampires watched, Gamzee’s hand beginning to shake the more he mumbled and traced.
“Her Imperious Condescension.” He eventually spoke, jabbing at Meulin’s skin a little too hard, making her growl. “This is from Her Imperious Condescension.” He said it again, voice warbling. Gamzee turned, hands falling slack as Karkat and Kanaya looked at him, confusion etched on their faces.
“Who the bloody hell is that?” Karkat asked, palming his still repulsive head wound.
“She’s- She’s the leader of the seadwellers.” Gamzee spoke, finding a pillow and sinking his claws into the fabric. “She- She fucking rules the oceans, heard around the coast that she’s taking over completely, raising up motherfucking armies.”
“This, this is something from some her imperious whatever? Is it a threat? A truce? Or am I just so far fucking out of it I can’t hear anything right?”
“From what Gamzee describes, a truce is unlikely.” Kanaya murmurs.
Finally dropping her shirt, Meulin turned around. “So hey yeah, what the fuck is going on?”
“Motherfucking bad news sister.” Gamzee breathed, chest thrumming and eventually delving into a rasping cough fit. Karkat wormed up from his seat, pressing a hand to Gamzee’s neck.
“You’re still warm jackass, don’t throw yourself out again.” Pulling the seatgoat back into the couch. “We don’t even know what the message says, but the sender is at least something. Now we know who hurt Meulin.”
The werewolf nodded shallowly, head falling forward.
In a blink Kanaya was standing, a hand extended down to Meulin’s face.
“Care to go to the porch and talk?” Her lips moved slowly, Meulin reading each word before nodding. Outside, the sun cast short shadows across the earth, wind rumbling a small chill and crisp leaves battering in the breeze.
“Would you like to talk about what’s bothering you?” Kanaya looked off into the forest just slightly, enough for Meulin to read her lips but not stare her down.
Meulin’s hands moved instead, before she spoke quietly. “Yeah I just… my highblood mate, my Kurloz…”
“He betrayed you.” Kanaya spoke, making Meulin inhale a breath sharply.
Her reply was timid, a shallow nod again. “Yeah… Best to just be blunt, right?” She smiled brokenly, covering her eyes with the back of her hands. “And now I can’t even hear you.” She spoke shakily, pulling her hands down and grabbing the simple black fabric of her shirt. Her eyes were watering, and now Kanaya turned to look at her directly.
“I thought he loved me. I loved him.” Meulin mumbled, head starting to pound.
“If he indeed loved you, then he wouldn’t have hurt you.” Kanaya replied, stepping forward and taking Meulin in a hug. Meulin almost melted, clinging to Kanaya and taking fistfuls of her properly placed shirt.
“Be careful when you walk among the world of men. I do not even know you to the extent I know the others, but I know that this highblood did not deserve you.” Kanaya breathed, rubbing her back gently and coaxing more tears from the smaller woman. Meulin nodded, holding onto her and letting herself get it all out for a few minutes.
She took a deep breath, standing upright and letting Kanaya readjust her rumpled shirt. “Thank you, I really appreciate this.” And after another deep breath, “Well, let’s figure out exactly what’s got me with boy troubles!”
Chapter 12: Chapter 11
Nepeta had been sitting at her desk for most of the afternoon, alternating between chewing on anything she could get her hands on, and drawing to the best of her ability. She was drawing looping circles and small fish when Equius knocked on her door.
“Come in.” She said, looping and fluttering air bubbles onto the paper.
“Hey, I figured we should talk again.” Equius mumbled, stepping into her room.
Nepeta looked up at him, brushing a few strays curls out of her face. “Is it about Ayako?”
“Eq I really don’t wanna talk about her.” She replied, turning back to the paper.
“She gives me bad vibes. She’s hasn’t been-” Nepeta chose her next few words carefully. “The nicest to me since you two started dating.”
“You just have yet to spent enough time with her.” Equius spoke, taking a seat on Nepeta’s mess of a bed. “She seems off putting at first, but once you get to know her she is kind in unexpected ways.”
“Really?” Nepeta mumbled, looking over at him again, spinning on the chair that once again belonged to her.
“Really. Would you like to meet up with her? I can be there or I can not.” Equius said, watching Nepeta’s face crinkle in thought. A chill breeze blew into the room, small shattered window doing nothing to help Equius adjust his tank top.
“We can go check in with her later.” Nepeta mumbled, dropping her pencil. “I’m gonna go get some aloe, you’re still sunburned as hell.” She gave a small smile, patting his sunburned shoulder gently as she exited her room. Equius watched her leave carefully, before taking note of the doodle page she was working on. That’s right, he remembered, at one point she was going down to the beach at night. Did they ever talk about that?
His thoughts were interrupted as Nepeta returned, whistling a small tune he barely recognized. “Okay, I’m gonna just-” She stepped onto the bed, shifting weights and sending a few small clothes piles onto the floor. “There we go!” A with a small bit of the green liquid on her hands Nepeta started to rub the worsened sun kissed patches of Equius shoulders. “I’m not gonna go under the shirt, since that should heal quicker.”
“I still cannot believe I was sunburnt while you escaped unscathed.” Equius groaned, feeling his eyes flutter shut as the aloe soothed. He slide off his glasses, setting them on the bed and sighing.
“Lighter skin. You may have your flowing mane of midnight but I got the darker skin.” Nepeta retorted, moving up and down his neck. Her hand traced a small circle on his exposed left shoulder blade, again and again and again.
“I do not want you going to the beach anymore.” His words were sudden, he didn’t even notice he was saying them until he finished.
“I don’t want you going to the beach. Not at night, especially not alone.” He repeated, straightening his back.
“Come on Eq, I’m not going near the water, I sit and stargaze.” Nepeta’s hand moved slower now, applying more pressure.
“I want to protect you Nepeta, and when you are down there alone at night, I do not know what may happen to you.”
He had a point.
“Alright, I’ll go down there a lot less.” She complied, finishing her work and rubbing her hands together to dry them.
Equius wasn’t expecting that answer, catching him off guard as Nepeta spoke next. “Can we go out to the college together sometime this week? To see if they have glass? Just the two of us?”
“Of course, whatever you’d like.” Equius fumbled for his glasses for just a moment, sliding them back on and looking over his shoulder at Nepeta. “Once we give a little time for the attack to die down.” He spoke, pointing a finger over his shoulder at her. “We are not going into town to stir up trouble.”
“Yeah yeah lamebag, I got that part already.” Nepeta rolled her eyes, sticking her tongue out at him. “We all need time to unwind. Today’s as good as over at this point.” She spoke, falling down onto a pile of worn blankets, bouncing Equius just slightly on the bed.
“You two fighting to the death in there? Do I need my pan flute?” Tavros spoke through the closed door, making both of the friends snicker.
“No Nitram, we are just talking.”
“ We’re , you know you can say contractions, I heard you say one earlier.” Nepeta teased from her pile.
“Oh my, I think Nepeta is a little bit upset from losing at volleyball yesterday.”
“You can suck my dick,” Nepeta pointed, fake offense written on her features.
“Rude and obscene.” Equius replied, real offense on his own as Tavros entered the room.
“Okay, so do you remember finding that dead bird out there a couple weeks ago?” Tavros took the office chair, stark as he walked into the room but took his personal wheelchair.
“Yeah, the one with the bit through wing.” Nepeta rolled over onto her stomach, looking at Tavros.
“Right. Well, I was…” He rolled his hands in the air a few times as he thought, “ communing through animals, to others in further parts of the forest.”
“I was unaware you could do that.” Equius observed.
“I can do a lot of things, heh, believe it or not I’m actually more than just… just some broken asshole in a wheelchair.” Tavros was quick to continue as Equius raised his finger in disgust. “Anyway, I’ve found out that a lot of animals are, well they’re sort of broadcasting to avoid this area. Around here, and not just the house I mean.”
“So they can, like sense the danger?” Nepeta pulled herself up to a sitting position as Tavros nodded.
“Yeah! There’s something around here that they really don’t want to mess with.” His eyes fell, and hands rubbed the fabric of his shirt.
“The wolf.” Equius and Nepeta both murmured, looking down too.
“That’s, well that’s what I was thinking.” Tavros mumbled in reply. The three lulled into silence, thinking of what that wolf was doing out in the forest especially one so close to a town of nonmythics.
“Have you heard anything about your herd?” Equius asked, snapping Tavros’ head up.
“H-Huh?” He blinked a few times, leaning in to hear Eq speak again.
“Your family. Have you found any news of them?”
“I well…” His voice died out and guilt drew a line across his face. “I haven’t been thinking of looking for them much…”
“You’ve been busy, that’s normal.” Nepeta chipped in. “Do you wanna take some time to yourself to do that? You’ve been helping us a lot but you have your own priorities.”
“I… well I never really… thought about it.” Tavros murmured. He blinked once, and then twice. “I was trying to be a good houseguest, I guess my herd slipped my mind.”
“Were they that good enough to begin with if you forgot about them?” Nepeta spoke gently, “Your stutter has smoothed itself out and you seem a lot happier here with us.”
Equius bumped elbows with her, Tavros blinking more and seeming to struggle to get his thoughts together.
“I’m gonna go see if I can find anything about them.” He said, shakily taking to his legs and clip-clopping his way back to his guest room.
“That was rude Nepeta.” Equius reprimanded, Nepeta giving a shrug.
“Sometimes you can’t see real love until you feel it.” She grumbled in reply, taking to her feet. With a few small stretches and tossing the aloe bottle over to her desk, Nepeta gave a sigh. “So, have you felt the weird eyes since we got back?”
“We’ve been back half a day.”
“Bleh! I’m asking a real question here!”
“Yes you are, and no I have not.” Equius stood next imitating Nepeta in a few stretches. “I think the others are attempting to comprehend seadweller again. Do you think we might be able to help?
“I mean hell, we can try. I’ll meet you out there, I want to try and find my sweatpants.” She picked up a pile of her mostly tattered clothes, tossing them over her shoulder. Her friend left, and when she heard his footsteps fade into the mainroom, she reached under her mattress to pull out a small shell container, and from that the ring. It’s gold caught the light wonderfully, and Nepeta slid it onto her finger before a worn pair of fingerless gloves.
She walked out of her room to Meulin holding her shirt over her shoulders pulling a pillow close to her chest.
The younger Leijon flashed a smile and peace sign, making Meulin smile.
“Like I said, I can tell you words, but I don’t fuckin’ know how the sentences are built together.” Gamzee huffed, rubbing a hand up and down the shaft of one of his horns.
“Just try harder, come on there must be something.” Karkat huffed in reply, pointing to smaller words and drawing Gamzee’s attention. “What’s that?”
“Eteo… K-Kolgadh…?” Gamzee read, “All I can tell you is it’s familiar, if I had a phrase I could work with I could… I could tell you more.” His voice lapsed as he leaned forward to clutch his head. “My head’s a fuckin’ mess Karkat, I can’t motherfucking do this.”
“Alright, okay okay.” Kanaya tapped Meulin’s shoulder, letting the girl drop her shirt back down. “Thank you for trying.”
Gamzee nodded gently, mumbling nonsense to himself. “Can a motherfucker get his peace up with mother nature? Kinda hard to breathe.”
“Yeah, go on and sit on the porch.” Karkat shooed him up, watching as the seagoat traipsing out the flimsy screen door.
“Equius, any chance you can fix the fucking front door?” He wiped his swollen eye carefully, watching Equius nod.
“I’m personally amazed any nonmythic could bring it upon themselves to split a wooden door in half, much less lodge it in a wall.”
“They managed to trash almost the entire house, it doesn’t seem too far out of the idea.” Kanaya replied, finishing a larger slash in the cushion she was sitting on. Nepeta and Meulin both nodded, and Equius shrugged, gathering a cup of warm water for himself. Meulin and Nepeta instead moved onto the floor, pointing and tracing imperfections in the wood flooring beneath them.
The five sat, talking amongst themselves of future plans when Gamzee returned, taking a deep breath and brushing his mess of hair away from his face. “Do any of y’all motherfuckers know any other languages?”
Karkat swore something about listening to somebody, and the werewolves shook their heads.
“I am slightly familiar with old turn french.” Kanaya spoke, sitting up.
“Are you thinking that there might be a correlation in the syntax and grammar as opposed to the diction?” Equius asked as he took a sip of his cup.
“I have no idea what the fuck you just said but yes.” Gamzee replied, giving small double pistol gesture with his fingers and dropping down onto the couch.
“So what, verbs and shit? What will that have to do with anything?” Karkat moved away from his friend, swapping places with Kanaya- on the floor Meulin made a vague finger gun gesture of her own that had Nepeta giggling.
Meulin did return to her seat on the table though, and Gamzee pointed. “Et is me, and Eteo, I think is mine.”
“So that is mine,” Kanaya pointed to a phrase closer to Meulin’s neck, “Why would they start a phrase with ‘mine’?”
“Right, that doesn’t make sense for a motherfucker to read!” Gamzee spoke. “They do any shit like that in french?”
“Nouns fall into placement following that of english.” Kanaya murmured.
“Maybe they…” Et se saiyáu . “Maybe they put all the personal nouns at the beginning?” Nepeta pushed herself up from the floor, skittering over to the back of the couch. Et se saiyáu, Et se saiyáu, I love you. “Yeah, try that. Maybe if that’s mine, it says something like mine yours and then a verb.”
“Seo eteo arraignma, ragnaro kolgadh. I think that looks like, … Mine yours taken, for something, war.”
“War? What?” Karkat said something, Nepeta nudging the back of his head.
“Mine is taken from yours.” Nepeta murmured, Kanaya repeating it louder.
“Yes, mine is taken from yours. For this there will be a war.” She said, following Gamzee’s stunted speech and ad-libbing it as best she could.
“This is a declaration of war.” Karkat spoke hollowly, listening as Kanaya made sense as best she could.
“The motherfuckin’ condesce wrote a death threat to the landdwellers on Meulin’s back.” Gamzee’s hand shook, chest rising and falling quick and shallow. Nepeta stood shakily, pressing a hand to the healing wounds on her stomach. Whether it was her flesh or her stomach she wobbled, and Equius rushed from his seat to wrap his arms around her middle.
“This is too much Eq… T-The wolf… the townies a-and now…”
“Shhh... “ His voice was low and shook just slightly, his chest rumbling. “Everything’s going to be okay.” He was the only one speaking in the silence, Meulin giving a silent chill and pulling her shirt back down. “We very well seem to have more than just humans to worry about.” Equius hand pressed on Nepeta’s shoulder, where her scar stayed.
“Our worries will remain protecting our house.” Kanaya spoke, taking a deep breath. “We will not attack, we will wait until the time is right.”
“You’re pulling stuff out of your ass again.” Karkat called, watching Kanaya return her small needle and thread.
“Yes but you hadn’t needed to call me out like that.” Kanaya replied, ascending the stairs.
A few uncomfortable laughs later the house was tense, Meulin walking over and again taking a seat on the couch next to Karkat. “What’s… I mean, what’s our priority at this point? The wolf? The seadwellers? The townies?”
“Seadwellers.” Gamzee murmured, “Humans ain’t got their fuckin’ genocide pact gettin’ on.”
“But the seadwellers don’t even have fucking legs! I mean…”
“Pink boots and gaudy jewelry?” Meulin mirrored, making Karkat swear.
“Fine, fucking hell I get it. Maybe a few of them have legs. But what you saw, from when your highblood tattooed you, must have been that imperious condescending bitch.”
Meulin nodded, rubbing her arms. “I guess.” She looked up at Nepeta and Equius, just as Nepeta un-burrowed herself from her friend’s arms.
“What a fucking prick.” Nepeta mumbled, taking Meulin’s hand and pulling her into a sitting position on the floor. Nepeta worked on finger combing and braiding her half sister’s hair, a nice way to help keep her fingers busy.
“Nepeta, how repulsive.” Equius blinked more than a few times, adjusting his glasses. He took a deep breath, and walked over to the back screen door, his hand hovering over the toolbox he left there. Eventually it retracted though, and he rubbed his face. “I am calling it a night.”
One by one the inhabitants found their ways to their rooms, until only Gamzee remained, stationed on the couch in the main room. He watched the moon rise high into the sky, stars twinkle and glow, and smiled gently.
The next day was quiet, Tavros again remained to himself until Meulin delivered some food. The house members were quiet, Equius working on fixing the front door as the Leijon half sisters taped extra fabric and tarp to the broken windows to stop worse drafts.
It took another day to fix the front door and salvage what they could of the windows. The Vampires were eerily silent while the others attempted to fix everything up, and soon the others realized why. A few days after their return Tavros collected everyone from their routine of work to meet in the main room. Everyone took seats along the floor of any available flat surface, and Tavros and Kanaya stood.
“Kanaya and I… well… we’ve been talking a-and…”
“Tavros believes he has found traces of his family on the far northern reaches, almost in the next state.” Kanaya extended a hand to Tavros’ shoulder, steadying the nearly shaking Satyr. He nodded sheepishly.
“And?” Nepeta swung her legs from her seat on the kitchen countertop.
“They’re going to go look for them.” Karkat spoke, gently rubbing his still bloodied eye. Everyone seemed to look at him, casting glares and doubts between him and those standing. “What? It’s why we’ve all been so quiet. Kanaya and I have future vision, she couldn’t hide it from me.”
“Tavros, now really isn’t the time, after all-” Meulin was cut off, Karkat speaking over her.
“It is. The less Mythics we have in this house the less noticeable it is.”
“What, are you suggesting we toss Gamzee back into the ocean and send me back to the fucking death march too?” Meulin tensed up, eyes glaring.
“That’s not what we’re debating. There is no debate. If we can find Tavros’ family and reunite them, then that is what is best for him. We need to honor that.” Kanaya spoke over the two butting heads on the couch and rubbed the Satyr’s arm gently.
“How long are you expecting that to take?” Equius was the next to speak, fiddling idly with the rather moist towel around his neck.
“No more than a season. If we can uphold human disguises we may be able to gather information from our own town on the way out or back. I have never set foot in the communal areas, and I know Tavros has not either. We’re much more fit to find information than any of the werewolves.”
“This is… this is just…” Nepeta found her fingers in her mouth as her eyes darted back and forth between her friends.
“A lot, I understand. But Karkat still has a point. If we can leave before winter sets in we’ll be back even sooner.”
“So then you aren’t planning on leaving tonight or anything.” Meulin spoke again.
“No, but we needed to tell you.”
“I might… I mean I might finally be able to find my dad and my brother.” Tavros’ voice was quiet compared to the others, and he fiddled with the hem of his loved black shirt.
Meulin went obviously quiet, and stood. She walked over to Tavros before taking him into a gentle hug.
Equius stood as well, instead of joining the slowly growing hug pile, he meandered to the back door instead. His fingers tapped against his towel, his eyes scanning the treeline just outside. The truck sat in the cool air, trees whistling and bending just slightly. A shape flicked across his vision, and staring more intently he realized a branch had fallen from a tree. He made a small note to go investigate when Nepeta pulled the hem of his shirt and made him jump.
“Jeez, paranoid much?”
“I suppose. Things are starting to become complicated.”
Nepeta let out a snorting giggle, Equius smiling. His hand found her curly hair and he gave them a good tussling, the girl grinning up at him. Maybe things would be okay. Maybe.
His hands moved quick and careful as he screwed nuts and bolts, Nepeta sitting on the roof of the truck, gently kicking the opened hood whenever her boredom grew too great.
Equius let her, he listened for the small thud and used it to keep time with his breaths, and when she stopped, he looked up. She was staring out into the woods, idly rubbing the faded marks of her skirmish with the black wolf.
“Hey, do you think…?”
“I doubt the wolf is tracking us, it seemed as if it was inhabiting the woods instead of bolting for the house.” He almost had it down to routine, blocking off Nepeta’s worry and his own with a voice of reason.
He pursed his lips, placing down his tools and closing the hood before gesturing up to her. “Care for a small distraction?” Nepeta nodded, and helping her down the two walked out from the house. “I remember, a few days ago when Maryam and Nitram announced their planned leave I saw- ah! There!” A tall tree had indeed lost a limb, long spindling branch half buried in a shrub.
“Something knocked down a branch?”
“And we have been out of the thunder season for a couple of weeks, correct?”
“Right… Here, throw me up.” Nepeta took a small step back, pointing up at another branch. “It could have been a vantage point? Maybe there was too many fat squirrels trying to look at the sunset or something.”
“How you managed to use those two sentences back to back I will never understand. But alright yes. I’ll give you a lift.”
A small cheerleading maneuver later, Nepeta perched herself on the closest branch, holding tight to the bark and peering around. “No, I can’t really see anything.” She scurried up and down the length, venturing closer to the diamond house.
“Well let’s get you down from there before you hurt yourself.” With a small leap the girl jumped down, getting more distance than she was expecting and landing almost on one of the house walls. She rolled hard to avoid breaking the siding, landing flat on her back in a cloud of dust.
“You’re grounded.” Equius spoke, clapping once before walking back towards the porch door. Nepeta didn’t respond immediately, instead staring up at the tiny tin roof.
“I wonder if…”
“Excuse me, are you still alive? Or will I need to hire a new best friend?” Equius asked, opening the door and looking over his shoulder.
“Good luck, the pay’s shit and you smell like butt half the time.” Nepeta yelled, jumping up and taking off after him.
They entered the house, those in the common room uttering vague greetings as they worked on their projects. Meulin had started writing the runes from her back onto a notebook, Karkat overseeing. Gamzee however stood from his seat next to Karkat, and took Nepeta gently by the forearm.
“Mind if we can get our talk on?”
“Yeah, no problem.” Nepeta spoke, while Equius nodded and spoke just briefly.
Don’t forget, I’m next in line.
Nepeta groaned melodramatically, but easily followed Gamzee onto the front porch. “Sup?”
“Had a motherfucking question is all.” His hands rubbed together quickly, when Nepeta’s attention was taken from his movements they almost seemed to meld together. “You knew ‘bout that seadweller because of that girl, am I right?”
Think fast, pull something out of your ass, Nepeta’s mind raced as she coughed awkwardly. “You remember that?”
“A motherfucker just wants his answer.”
“Yes. She’s, important to me.” Nepeta’s hand rubbed the small gold ring hidden beneath her glove.
“Mighty ineterestin’ catsis.”
“She’s not one of them!”
“But you were still ready to throw Eq’s girl right under the bus ‘cause she was a townie, and townie’s did our attack. What makes ya think the rest a’ the house won’t do the same to yours, in your case?” His words were ice, words Nepeta knew she didn’t want to hear but also knew were coming.
“You have to swear not to tell anyone.”
“Alright, I swear. But if she ends up being involved in this, I won’t let this just float away.” His finger pointed as he finished, “I won’t.”
“She isn’t, Feferi’s-”
“A seadweller. And one a them already ’s got eyes on motherfuckin’ terra firma here.”
“You’re one to talk, half.” The spite bubbled up from her lips before she could stop herself, a quick hand covering her mouth.
Gamzee was silent, small stunted earfins pressing against his head. “We’re done here. Fucking. Done.”
Nepeta watched the seagoat stomp back into the house, taking a seat on the couch and looking out a rear facing window. With shame heavy in her heart Nepeta rushed to Equius’ room, closing the door quickly behind her.
“Are you alright?”
“Yeah, don’t worry about it. What did we need to talk about again?”
“Ayako.” Equius voice was half covered by Nepeta’s whine, making her companion sigh. “She is my girlfriend, it is important to me that the two of you get along.”
“I’d really rather not. She doesn’t like me so if we can just not interact… preferably ever, then you can be happy and I can be happy.”
“We have plans to meet in a few days, it would make me very happy if you’d accompany us.”
“Do you not? Understand anything? That’s coming out of my mouth?”
“Ignorance is bliss as they say. And I think it is about time you do something out of goodwill for me. Variety is the spice of life.”
“What are you, a fortune cookie? Listen, I guess I can hang around for a little bit, but I was gonna stargaze soon.”’
“You can watch the stars from your bedroom window after you interact with Ayako.”
“You my dad now?” Nepeta’s arms crossed, jaw tightening.
“With that kind of attitude, fighting me on everything I say, I could ask the same thing.” Equius turned, gathering a collection of papers from his small desk and beginning to organize them.
“Just fucking… whatever.” Nepeta left the room, exhaling heavily.
“And watch your language for the billionth time!”
Nepeta bolted into her bedroom, collapsing on the bed and burying her head beneath her lumpy pillow. Today was not going good, today was going bad and it was not fun at all.
The house grew quiet as autumn continued to grow, Kanaya worked quickly to make suitable winter clothes before she would leave, Meulin getting an olive green sweater and Gamzee a black one. The others got touch ups and adjustments, everything checked and checked as Tavros gently reminded her their date was fast approaching.
It was Tavros himself who was the first to say his goodbyes, perhaps driven moreover by his uncertainty of his goodbyes possibly being permanent. Karkat again went over their plans, the entire house seeing the two off early one fall morning before the sun had awoken. They were quickly outside of sight, and not soon after out of ‘vampire service’ with the house as Karkat so eloquently put it. Those remaining were quiet, careful again and again of not only what they were doing but what each other did as well. Meulin, Karkat and Gamzee worked on keeping the house in sensible working order, where Equius stepped up as emergency physician- although everyone knew he would be the only option whether he wanted to or not.
Nepeta had been fishing a snack from the ice box when a crash echoed from down the hall, making her take off running. “Eq! Eq you alright?” It sounded again, and it clicked. The sound of breaking glass, like a window being broken. Hooves and feet stampeded into the main hallway, Equius almost falling out from the doorway as he pushed the door out.
Blood dripped from a gash on his forehead, glasses missing.
“What the hell’s going on here?” Karkat’s own eye was close to being completely healed as he blinked at Equius. He was answered instead by yells, cheers and threats coming from outside the house. The setting sun provided little light, but cell phone lights illuminated what almost seemed to be a mob of townspeople marching towards the shack. They yelled and swore, each house member taking in a sharp breath.
“Ezra! Ezra!” A feminine voice broke the surface of yells, again and again she yelled.
“Ayako?” Equius pressed a hand to his forehead, blinking. “Is that Ayako out there? Ayako!”
“You fucking idiot! Get back here!” Karkat and Meulin took off after Equius, the young man himself swinging through both doors and emerging on the porch as the mob grew closer.
“Ezra! They made me tell where you were!”
“Are you the ones that can through town and ruined our storefronts?!” Someone yelled from the back of the gathering, Nepeta and Meulin getting through the doorway and blinking wildly.
“You heard him! You the delinquents that spray-painted my shop?”
“That broke all my windows?!”
A dull roar riled up, men and women and everyone alike seemingly hostile. A teenager in the front held a rock in their hand, before pelting it the house. It bounced off the wood siding, almost a foot away from Nepeta and having the girl jump.
“Just stop it already! They didn’t do this!” Ayako shook her head, shoulders in the hands of one of the mobbers.
“You were the assholes that ruined our house!” Nepeta screamed, Meulin taking her by the shoulder.
“We didn’t do anything to anything in town.” Equius spoke clear and slow, his eyes never leaving his girlfriend. “We didn’t vandalize or terrorize anything.”
“Maybe if you quit lobbing rocks we could talk it out!” Meulin spoke this time, keeping herself firmly planted in front of the door to the house. Karkat and Gamzee stood with their backs pressed to the closest wall, listening and hearts beating hard.
“Oh no, the wolf.” Karkat breathed, eyes going wide and blank.
“What?” Gamzee whispered, Karkat cutting him off.
“I’ll be right back!” Karkat yelled with a hush, flitting with his graced silence.
“Let’s talk about this.” Equius was the only one moving, slow as his speech as he descended the porch steps. “Let Ayako go, so we can talk.” He wiped what blood he could off of his face, taking a small breath when Ayako was indeed let go.
“Did you ruin our streets?”
“No, we didn’t. We’ve been minding our own business. My friends and I have no ill intent towards your town, we appreciate everything you have done for us and in return we do not wish to impede.” His words were full and solid, Nepeta watching from the porch and chewing on her fingertips.
“Our house was attacked, broken and vandalized as well.” Equius gestured to the broken windows and unreachable points of paint.
The crowd mumbled amongst itself, a few cellphone lights going out.
“Would you like to enter our home? We’ve had to rebuild a wall, our front door was split in half and the windows are taped with rundown fabrics to fight the drafts.”
Equius! What the fuck are you doing! Nepeta was yelling,
Bluffing, what does it look like? We need to do something, I’m not as gifted in speech and Maryam but I can darn well try.
Equius was very clearly sweating through his shirt, and slowly he took a knee on the forest floor. “We mean no harm.”
“Why would he lie? Why wouldn’t he?! What if- No maybe-” The towns members all turned, questioning and murmuring amongst themselves.
Seconds turned to minutes, and slowly Equius stood again.
“If these freaks didn’t, then who did?” Somebody asked, blame thrown in the air like ball as everyone waited for it to land and start pointing fingers. Ayako took her chance, running from the human side and into Equius’ arms, the young man holding her tightly.
“Are you alright? Did they hurt you?”
“No, somebody said they thought they say your friend breaking one of the storefronts, everybody rallied and- nobody was sure where to find you. They made me-”
“I understand. I’m glad you’re okay.” Equius kissed her just briefly, interrupting her talking. Everyone out in the forest that night went quietly, the occasional shuffling of feet being the ambience as one by one townsfolk returned home. The moon began to rise in the sky before the largest collection of stubborn townies began to turn homeward.
A distant howl perked everyone’s ears.
“You all need to leave, and now. Wolves tend to hover and it’s unsafe.” Meulin yelled, the men of the town arguing amongst their group.
“She’s right, you need to-”
Another, this time much closer.
“Ayako, go with them. Head straight home.” Equius gave her an order, before pulling back his long hair and walking towards Nepeta.
“No! I’m not gonna leave you out here, just let me stay with you we can-”
“A wolf!” Someone yelled, pointing uphill at a shadowed figure quadruped. People yelled, nonmythics beginning to bolt.
“No-!” Equius yelled, his voice drowned out by screams. He ran, taking Ayako by the waist and rolling the two of them into the dirt.
“Nepeta!” Meulin took off from the porch, the same time the black wolf found it’s target. He dove from the small cliffside, growling and just narrowly missing Nepeta as she kicked around to dodge.
“Ayako, stay here.”
“Ezra- No!” She clutched his shirt.
“Nepeta!” The girl was dodging, dirt on her face and doing her best to avoid shifting.
This is your fault, your fault your fault! The wolf’s voice was similar, but so different as he managed to stride, taking Nepeta down onto the dirt. His claws shredded her jacket, jaws just barely managing to miss her jugular as she wrestled back. Equius took off, running to his friend and his adrenaline pumping hard. Gripping the wolf’s fur with everything he had Equius ripped and tore, kicking and swinging at the menace.
A high pitch buzzed to life quickly after, louder and louder until Nepeta and Equius had to freeze, hands on their ears. The black wolf followed after, pausing to wince at the tone.
Ayako watched from the sideline, shadows obscuring most of the movements and silence replacing what was overbearing the werewolves. A boy she didn’t recognize poked his head from the doorway, blowing hard into a small whistle and then everything exploded.
Meulin took one look at her whistleblower, before taking a running leap to shift into her wolf form and tackle the unknown wolf and land more than enough damage until Karkat needed to take a breath. Equius and Nepeta remained locked, heads swimming and ears ringing louder than anything else as Meulin fought, her weaker powers balancing out the damage she had already done and the two falling into a vicious balance.
Without thinking Ayako stood, grabbing a tree vine and swinging it around hard to whip the dark furred monster with a whip crack. Meulin and the wolf both looked up, the wolf managing to push off Meulin and instead take off for Ayako. She cracked the vine again, snapping the plant fiber against the wolf’s snout before Meulin tackled him again, just a few feet away from the human onlooker.
Her voice wouldn’t work, neither would her brain, Ayako fell to her knees, whole body shaking at what she managed to do.
The long howl of pain that slowly echoed into a human cry caught everyone’s attention, a scream of agony making blood curdle.
Meulin withdrew her teeth from the wolves now human arm, mangled skin and flowing black hair as he reverted to his human form. He was wholly human for not but a minute, taking his quadruped form again and limping as best he could.
Meulin tried to follow, pain overtaking her vision and forcing her to her human self instead. Even further, the damage done by her own overuse brought the woman to the ground where her enemy once stood.
Equius’ mind struggled to work, deafening silence and a faint ringing ever present. His vision swam, hands moving wrong as he stood up from his knees. Where was he again? Where was Ayako? Or… Nepeta’s still body caught his eyes, Equius tripping over his own feet to get next to her.
What did this? He was fighting and… Ayako was yelling now. Screaming and clearly crying, hiccuping sobs of confusion and betrayal. Blood covered his face and hands, Equius standing up shakily and blinking slowly. He looked at her, Ayako bright red and shuffling backwards as best she could to get away from him.
When she managed to get to her feet and out of the woods the forest was silent again.
Things were not going to be okay.
Guess who finally got around to updating~! The word count is small this chapter but I feel like more than enough has happened. I'd love some thoughts or comments down below, hope you enjoyed!