Let it be known that Dirk Strider is a man that lends favors sparingly. Rarely do you engage in any activity that will not advance you as an individual, either in a fiscal or physical sense.
Nothing in your life has ever been accomplished without payment or sacrifice.
When your rancid asshole of a guardian failed to provide efficient care of you and your brother save for being battle ready, you took Dave under your wing. More often than not you found yourself trading your safety for his. Texas was not kind to you, nor was Bro. Dave was made of softer stuff than you and that meant protecting him twice over. Your body has been wrecked and torn and sewn back together a million times, but still you live on. Life after survival.
After Bro was finally accused and sentenced for his crimes against you and yours, your great aunt Rosalind took you in for the few remaining years of your adolescence. You needed time to heal and Dave needed a family. Rose and Roxy fell into your lives like a saving grace.
You would never call what you experienced a “childhood.” The vicious scar around your neck is a sharp reminder of how you couldn’t afford to allow yourself one. You were only ever a warrior–efficient and cold. The Lalondes have softened you somewhat over the years. And Dave. Not to mention the particular flavor of tricks Rosalind has taught all of you over time.
But favors. You don’t do favors. You don’t just do things because you’re asked nicely. Particularly not on negative fucking degree days in December when you could be warm in your workshop with hot metal under your palms and wires between your fingers.
But Dave doesn’t give a single hot steamy shit about that and asks you anyway, because you’re incapable of telling him no. So here you are, braving Woden’s frigid asshole for a simple errand.
Dave, your sweet darling of a younger brother, is halted hip deep in traffic somewhere while you’re here at an obscenely unsterile downtown gym full of creatures you’re fairly certain are very confused at your presence among their kind. You yourself are just that. Confused.
You were hoping to make this pick up quick, so you kept your coat and sweater on, and boy was it fucking hot. The open floor plan helped, but it still felt like you were swimming in the pure unfiltered body miasma of a room teaming with sweating strangers. Which, would you look at that? You fucking are.
You find Karkat immediately, one of the few trolls in the gym, and make your way over to him. Karkat is by no means a little guy, but he’s certainly not vertically gifted. At 6’2” you’re taller than most people you meet, but Karkat’s wild mane barely reaches your collar. You know Dave must love that.
Suffice to say Karkat is a bit of an anomaly, among other things. Like at this very moment you find him to be abashedly nervous. When he notices your presence, he rushes over to meet you. He squares up, built, but not uncomfortably swol like some of the specimens around you, and opens his cavernous mouth filled with words.
“WHY THE BLITHERING FUCK ARE YOU HERE?” You tell yourself he’s not angry with you personally, he’s just angry. In general.
“Dave asked me to pick you up. He’s stuck in traffic.”
“WELL FUCK.” You’re not sure what the issue is here, it’s just a ride home.
“Is there a problem?” you ask, genuinely concerned that Karkat is hiding something, which is unlike him considering how loud he habitually airs his thoughts.
He worries one pointed claw between his teeth and furrows his brow just a little further. It's actually pretty impressive how tightly he can manage to scrunch his face together. You hope it doesn’t get stuck that way, not that he’s doing anything to avoid it. For all you know, it could already be the case.
Karkat switches his weight from one leg to the other, then brings his arms down hard against his sides. “So some fucking how I managed to get into a fight with some asshole here, AGAIN, surprise surprise, and they sort of might be waiting for me in the free ring.” This is no surprise to you, but Karkat’s hesitation is unnerving in its unfamiliarity. You know he’s thrown down for less than an argument, so what’s the deal here.
“And?” You prompt, needing more evidence to support his behavior. The crux of the matter is that Karkat has been training to box to relieve stress, otherwise he wouldn’t even be here with all these strangers in the first place. When he’s not being instructed, however, he tends to make enemies of his classmates. Dave is usually around to steer him clear of situations exactly like this. They really do depend on one another.
Karkat goes from red to a god damn tomato in no time flat and you think you get it. “You’re afraid of this person.”
His head snaps up, eyes on fire. “I’M NOT FUCKING AFRAID, DIRK! I'M JUST–” He reins in his volume when he notices people looking over at the unconventional pair you make, and runs a heavy hand down his face. “I just know when I’m out of my damn league alright??”
“Apparently not, if you agreed to this at all.” You don’t have time for this horseshit, and the smell and ambiance of this place is driving into your nerves. You want your sterile, quiet, solitary workshop. “We can just leave.” It’s not a question, and you make sure it can’t be misconstrued as one. It’s final.
Karkat is about to protest, because of course he is, when a voice rings out over the uncomfortable grunts and clanging of machinery to halt you. You find it funny that most of these people wear headphones to drown out the sounds they make while pumping iron, but you’re stuck listening to this obscene din. You can’t say you hate it.
You and Karkat look up at the same time and you notice him stiffen. This must be the guy.
Which is unfortunate.
Because he’s unfairly gorgeous. And half naked in a fitted tee and staggeringly short gym shorts. His hands are expertly wrapped in green fingerless gloves to match his tall name brand boxing shoes.
Huh. Maybe this place isn’t so bad.
“Now look here, I had a nagging feeling you were planning on jumping ship!” he says, in a rich voice that projects from some deep place in his chest, higher than yours, but loud and full. He’s maybe two inches shorter than you and dipped in a warm mahogany tone from head to toe, peppered with bruises and thin white scars.
His hair is black and thick, curling wildly in the front, moving in vertical waves up and away from his face. Which is just as stunning as the rest of him. Go figure.
Thick eyebrows over bottle green eyes and a perfect Cupid’s bow upper lip that sits against a full, curved bottom lip. You ponder the possibilities. And fuck if he couldn't pick you up and break you in half with those arms. Along with some other things he could do to you with those arms.
Karkat opens his mouth in another attempt to protest, but the guy isn’t having it. “OH NO siree bob, don’t think you can wiggle your way out of this one, jack rabbit! This has been a long time coming, and bet your biscuits you know it!” You’re trying very hard not to laugh at this beautiful guy and his ridiculous lingo. Very hard.
Very very hard.
“LOOK FUCKWIT, I DON'T WANT TO FIGHT YOU! SO BACK THE HELL UP,” Karkat says, as he braces himself for a fight he doesn’t want, but will likely be the cause of.
The angry beautiful man is looking very unhappy, and Karkat is trying his best to look both bigger and nonthreatening simultaneously. Time to break this up.
You step up from beside Karkat to put yourself between the two of them. The man in question seems to have only just realized you were even there, taking a step back in obvious surprise at you appearing between them out of the void. You take a second to not be offended.
“I don’t know what happened here, but I’m sure it’s not worth all this.” He doesn’t look swayed. He does look interested in your collar bones however, since his wild emerald eyes keep making the leap from your shades to the small peaks above your shirt collar. That’s way too near to the jagged scar around your neck and nope. “There’s no need for a fight,” you say, bringing his eyes back up to your face. He seems to not want to look directly at your shades. Good.
“I’m sure as sunshine there is!” he says. “Your little friend here has been downright brutish to nearly every Tom, Dick, or Harry in this establishment, and I dare say a comeuppance is well overdue.” Oh, you think, of course. Karkat’s mouth.
You look at Karkat and he looks away, embarrassed in knowing that he got himself into this and you're going to be the poor sap that bails him out. Fine. You know there’s a very slim chance of him apologizing and you’d like to fix this situation without him getting banned from the premises.
“We can handle this without a brawl,” you tell the stranger, voice firm and level. “He obviously doesn’t want to fistfight you.” You really would like to go home.
“A cowards way out,” he half spits, “If you’re not going to stand up for a fight, then don’t go about picking them.” He looks at you again. “You’ve got nothing to do with this.” Woah there, that’s a nasty tone. You didn’t have a damn thing to do with this, but you might now.
“Hey,” you warn, and yeah that gets his eyes on your face and off Karkat’s, “I think that’s enough.”
“I think,” he mocks, “You ought to let him fight his own battles. Unless you’re planning on going toe to toe in his stead, which seems hardly the case.” What.
“Excuse me?” Your face is stone still.
“You’re barely a match for me, look at you. A right lovely picture you make, but even our small friend here has more mass than you, I’m afraid.” He gestures at Karkat who is busy staring open mouthed at this fucking idiot who thinks you of all people could be bested in a fight. A part of you really needs an excuse to wreck him, now. The other part still just wants to go home. And a third, smaller part really likes the idea of his hands on you. You smash it down.
He shakes his head in disapproval before you can open your mouth to verbally maim him and it stings your ego. “Please don’t come back if all you’re going to do is rouse anger and not stand up to face it.” You know Karkat is bad, but that’s harsh. It took weeks for him to get comfortable here. You know, because Dave wouldn’t shut up about it.
“Well, if it’s a fight you need to settle this, I’m sure I can satisfy you.” One long step forward brings you toe to toe with him. You’re not about to let a chance to prove this beautiful lunatic wrong slip through your fingers.
He looks you in the eyes, then, and holy shit if there isn’t something wild and hungry living in there. You’re thankful for the dark, heavy lenses shielding you from the full weight of his focus.
He considers your offer, then a sly grin spreads across his face and you think you may have just gotten played into fighting this guy. That thought pushes you over the edge, and yeah, now you’re pretty fucking angry. Maybe slightly thrilled.
“Alrighty then,” he bounces twice on the balls of his feet, “If you’re sure there, sweetheart. I’d hate to hurt such a pretty thing.” He winks at you, all cocky and prodding and your hands curl into tight fists in your coat pockets.
Your voice rumbles in your chest in a low growl, “I’m sure.”
He grins wide, cheeks dimpling and eyes squinting, and turns to gesture towards the door like a real showman. He’s stupid handsome and practically oozing charm and all you want is to have him on his back and pinned to the ground under you.
You follow him into a room separated form the main gym by a large set of double doors. You definitely don’t watch the way the muscles in his back slide as he opens the door, just like you definitely didn't’ watch his ass the whole walk over. Karkat hisses next to you, “Dirk, you don’t have to do this. We can just fucking leave.” He’s giving you an out, same as you did for him, but you’ve got a point to make. You keep walking past the Handsome Man holding the door open for the two of you, ever chivalrous in the face of his inevitable ass kicking.
“Fuck me,” falls out of Karkats mouth like tumbled gravel, “Dirk he’s an instructor, it’s not gonna be a walk in the fucking park here.” You give him a leveling glare and he sighs. “Christ, just don't get us both banned. Or kill him.”
Your match climbs up onto the ring without any preamble and turns to face you. “Prepped as punch and ready as I’ll ever be, chum.” He’s goading you into rushing with his goofy lingo you do not in any way find endearing.
You take your shades off and hold his gaze. You can see the minute shift in his eyes when he focuses in on the unusual orange hue he finds there. He lets out a low whistle. “Please, take your time.”
So you do. You use it efficiently, like you always have.
You shrug the jacket off your shoulders, watching him watch you. The loose sweater lifts easily over your head, and he doesn’t miss a moment of your disrobing down to just your black quarter length and jeans. Your fingers twitch around a phantom hilt. You don’t usually fight without a sword. Won’t need it for this, at any rate.
He’s grinning as he takes in every detail of you from head to toe, building his catalogue as you build yours. You’re not sure he’s naive enough to think his larger build makes him a sure-win for this fight, or if maybe he genuinely likes the shape of you and is pleased with his accomplishment of rallying you into harm's way. Either way you’re planning to shove that grin right down his throat.
“First to get pinned loses. When I win, Karkat stays,” you say, giving him a chance to set any ground rules. There’s no pleasantry in your voice, only cool conviction. Your rising pulse says otherwise.
“All’s fair,” he says, “No holds barred.” His eyes trace the lithe muscle of your legs as you climb into the ring. The black material probably makes you look even less formidable in size. That’s fine. Advantageous, even.
“Fine with me.” You square up, go into your stance, and drop your chin.
He smiles and you wish he would fucking stop because it’s doing some lurid shit to your insides.
“Smashing, let’s get to it.” And with that, he swings like lightning.