You don’t even feel the pain, really, and all that’s running through your pan as the troll you thought was your moirail--your best friend, even--brings down those infernal clubs over and over and over again is are they okay, Dave and Jade and Kanaya and Sollux and Terezi, please let them be alright but you know they aren’t, Gamzee’s weapons are stained every color of the hemospectrum; bronze and olive and cerulean and violet, and for God’s sake, you should’ve known, should have known that of course the only timeline when you almost succeed was a fucking doomed one, and then the clown grins wide and dripping purple form where someone’d clawed across his face and in one final motion raises his hands far above his head and swings the club down--
The first thing you register after opening your newly-blank eyes is that this dream bubble is very, very different than the rest you’d passed through during your time on that wretched meteor. Mostly due to the fact that what looks like the entire thing is pulsing with fluorescent lights on beat with thunderous music, some lyrics in Alternian and some in English. You heave yourself to your feet, squinting at your neon surroundings; the planet’s surface looks to be an amalgamation of Dave’s, Gamzee’s, and Vriska’s planets mashed up with a landscape of jagged rocks and rivers of molten gold that you don’t recognize--likely one of your teen-ancestors’ planets, and all thoughts of from exactly which sessions the ground originated are lost as someone shrieks your name.
“Karkat!” comes a sound from somewhere behind you, and you turn around just in time to get barrelled into by a shiny, metallic mass of silver plating and wild hair. You stagger backwards with an ‘oomph’, jerking your head up and back to reveal...Aradia? Well, it’s one of her bot selves, though you suppose she’s still as much of an Aradia as she ever was alive. You recall her disappearing a few days into your own game session--Sollux was torn up, and you resist the urge to berate her; she’s smiling widely, more expressive than you ever saw her while you were alive, her dead eyes flashing in a friendly way as she grips you by the shoulders.
“Karkat! Oh, we missed you so much. You were the last one to join the party. Come with me, everyone’s excited to see you!” You’re astonished, more so by the fact that they were waiting for you than by the fact that all of them died before you managed to. Aradia smiles again, and you nod silently. She immediately pulls you into a crushing hug, and you have to pound on her back with a fist to get her to stop squishing you with her robotic strength and let you take a breath. Just because you’re dead doesn’t mean that suffocation is particularly pleasant.
“Aradia, what the hell’s going on? When we were in the game, we were, like, acquaintances at best. Not that I don’t appreciate it, obviously, I’m just confused as shit.”
She steps back from you, pushing her hair back from her face with one hand in an oddly organic gesture, her silvery face falling ever so slightly. “I’m sorry. It’s just--I could have done so much more while we were playing. But instead, I just jumped the gun and fled to the alpha timeline’s Black King fight at the first sign of trouble. I suppose I just felt...responsible for everything going down the drain the way it did.” Suddenly, she smiles again, showing all of her teeth. “But it’s been a sweep and a half, and now you’re here! And neither of us have to worry about how the alpha timeline goes anymore.”
You feel yourself smiling a little, if only at a hint of her old enthusiasm returning. You aren’t sure why, but you feel yourself wrapping your arms around her middle in a hug of your own (can she even feel it?) and resting your forehead on the elevated ball joint of her shoulder. “Fuck, I missed you guys too.” You feel her twist her head and kiss your cheek, her lipstick leaving a sticky-tack indigo mark on your skin. You pull back to look at her, and ask, “So. Where’s this party?”
Before you know it, she’s got a hand locked around your wrist and is pulling you along, under a cartographic sky and between lava oceans to the largest, most imposing tent smack dab in the middle of a clearing. The brightest strobing lights and loudest Alternian rock music seep from the entrance, and Aradia holds the flap open with a smile on her face. You duck inside--
“Karkitty!” And you’re getting bowled over again, this time by a small condensed mass of olive green with a fanged smile and sharp, sharp nails. Nepeta squirms around in your lap, locking her arms around your neck and nuzzling her face into your shoulder, her coat draping around her like curtains. She pokes at your cheek with its indigo ink stamping on it and snorts. “Looks like Aradia got to you furst, hee hee.” You stare at her blank eyes, agape, until her grin sags a bit and she cocks her head. “Are you okay? Didja hit your head when I pounced on you? Sorry.”
You find your words. “No, shit. I’m fine. Sorry. Before we, um, died, you hadn’t been nearly this, uh, friendly. Touchy.”
“Oh! I can stop, if you like. I’m just excited to see you again! It feels like it’s been purrigees, y’know how time is purretty funky here.”
“No, you’re okay! You just surprised me.”
“I do tend to surpurrise people! As for those other Nepetas, they might still have been crushing on you and were scared of embarrassing themselves.”
“Nope! Don’t get me wrong, of clawrse I still like you. Just...not like that. No offense, but it’s a bit of a relief! Plus now I get to give you all the hugs I was too scaredy-cat to give you when we were alive.” As if to prove her point, Nepeta lunges forward again and squeezes you around the torso with crushing strength. You wheeze and she lets go--“Ohmigod, I’m so sorry!”--and you wave her off.
“It’s fine. Honestly, I’m just happy we can have a fucking conversation without weird feelings getting in the damn way all the time. Shit was worse than us hating each other.”
She smiles, more gentle than manic, and hugs you again, this time not quite as strong or as sudden. She lays her arms over your shoulders before planting her nose firmly in the space between your neck and shoulder.
“We mpphhnd ygh,” comes her muffled voice.
“Holy shit, you gotta speak up.”
“We missed you!” She shouts directly into your auricular sponge clot and you involuntarily yell in alarm. She giggles.
“Mother fuck. I’m deaf now. You’ve made me into your dancestor. I hope you’re happy.”
She hops to her feet and extends her arms. You seize her hands and she hefts you up with seemingly no effort. You’ve always been jealous of her strength, but Jesus.
“Come on, join the party! Efuryone’s here. I bet your matespurrit’s here, Karcat, you just gotta find him!”
“Oh my god, shit, holy fuck, how could I forget--” In your frenzy, you sweep your eyes around the room, taking in everything. The round tent looked far smaller from the outside, and the cloth-draped walls would easily fit a hundred people. As it was, it currently contained around twenty or thirty, and you recognized a fair amount. You spot Rose and Kanaya tangled up in the corner, and about twelve feet away sits Dave. He’s talking to Feferi, their arms locked, whispering to each other and giggling like wrigglers. She shows him something on her huskphone, he lifts up his shades to see it clearly and he laughs, a real laugh, big and full-bodied and so, so genuine.
Nepeta gives you a playful little shove and you go off like a bullet towards them. Dave sees you first out of the corner of his eye and he springs to his feet, taking a surprised Feferi with him. Her confusion melts into elation as her eyes lock on you. She drops her phone and suddenly both of them are full-on sprinting over to you. You don’t stop running and meet them in the middle. You wrap yourself up with both of them, Feferi’s slender fingers with their tiny pink webs laced in a crown behind your back and her hair curling over the shoulders of all three of you like a veil, Dave pressing fast and light kisses to the exposed skin of your collarbone and his wiry arms vacuum-sealed around your waist.
“Thanks, coolcat,” he calls across the room, his voice barely audible over the music, and you twist around just in time to see Nepeta give him a thumbs-up and a grin. Feferi waves to her. You turn back around, burying your face in the space where Dave and Feferi’s shoulders intersect, breathing in the smell of saltwater and ash.
“I missed you, Karcrab!” Feferi says close to you, and you turn to look up at her. Dave smirks and elbows her, and she sticks out her tongue at him. “We missed you! All of us, no manta how greedy your matesprit is!”
“'No manta’? That one was a stretch, even for you, Peixes.”
“You just hake puns like a weirdo!”
“Oh my god, another one. They’re stupid.”
You let their good-natured squabbling fall into the background, mingling with the pounding music as you close your eyes.
You awaken from your impromptu doze all too soon to the feeling of Dave’s lips on yours. He kisses sideways over your face and up your jawline, his blunt teeth pressing ever so slightly against your skin just enough to make little red crescents between your freckles. It tickles. The music is still playing, and as Dave lets go of you and you can stand straight, finally getting your bearings again, you look around at the party. Feferi’s nowhere to be seen. The name of the celebration comes back to you in a rush--it’s a quadrant swing, a type of group gathering you recognize as an Alternian tradition. Trolls of all blood colors and enclades, disregarding pre-existing relationships and bouncing around between flushed, pale, and pitch partners like pinballs. You suppose it makes sense to throw one here; as far as you know, everyone in the room besides your dancestors are from the same timeline as you, and is taking this opportunity to reconnect with old flames and forge new paths to last forever. As one does, when one is dead. Even the humans are joining in—Rose’s dancestor kisses Feferi’s, bites her hard enough to trickle glutinous fuschia blood down her chin, scratches her pink nails down the side of Meenah’s face before falling back into the arms of Terezi and Sollux’s dancestors for a flushed romp. Dave’s left your side, and you spin around to catch a glimpse of Vriska backing him up against the wall. You stare for a moment--the meteor was large enough to hold all of you, but it wasn’t so big that you’d have missed something like this--even though the music’s deafening you can imagine the sound of their voices, her hissing shouty explosive-anger-voice and his slow monotone shake-with-rage voice, and then Vriska snatches a handful of his shirt and he grabs her by her tall slim horns to spin around and slam her into the fabric of the tent (it’s more solid than you’d given it credit for) and she arches up to meet him and yeah, now she’s got both her hands pulling on his hair as he scratches up her arms with blunt human nails, digging her fangs into his lower lip and drawing just enough candy red to make you squirm. You’re not even jealous. Dave and Vriska both deserve their caliginous fun. You suppose you can concede for one evening—after all, you have the rest of eternity to have your matesprit for yourself.
You tear your eyes away from Dave and Vriska to look at the rest of the guests. Nobody’s doing anything explicit, though there’s palpable tension in the air between most partners of all quadrants. A notable exception presents itself in the pair closest to you; Dave’s dancestor is dancing with Terezi, their movement remarkably fluid despite him having a good six inches, twenty pounds, and three shoe sizes on her. You’ve memorized the face she makes when she laughs her grating, raspy laugh, and she twists her face into it as she hops in spastic circles around the much less manic boy. Dirk’s wearing sunglasses, just like Dave, but his are thin, cracked triangles with curious red lights that flash around like drones in the lenses. The quirk of his eyebrows and the tiny smile he sports tells you his white eyes are soft behind the opaque acrylic, watching Terezi bop around to the rhythmic music.
You switch your gaze to the other side of the room, where Jade’s dancestor is sandwiched between Vriska’s and Kanaya’s. They move simultaneously in oscillating pulls on either side of him, Porrim’s hands glued to his waist and Aranea’s arms resting on his shoulders. His face is flushed human red behind his glasses, too stunned even to dance along with them. Porrim trails her lips over his neck, leaving black lipstick-kiss prints over his tanned skin. Aranea smiles at him, flashing her fangs. You turn away, burning with the secondhand shame of voyeurism.
Jade herself is not too far away, swaying in place with...wait, is that your dancestor? His entire face is fiery mutant red, but you don’t blame him. Jade’s very attractive, especially when she’s all bubbly and grinning and in your face—or in this case, Kankri’s face, as she rains little fluttering kisses over his cheekbones, more splotches of candy red blooming like a sunburn everywhere her lips make contact. You fight the impulse to laugh at his scandalized expression. Jade fails to resist the urge, breaking out into silent giggles and bracing herself against Kankri’s shoulder for support. You conceal a little smile, turning around once more.
Oh, and there’s Rose again. You almost wave, but she seems preoccupied; she’s facing Kanaya, her left arm ensconcing the jadeblood’s thin waist in a lover’s protective gesture, but her right arm’s twisted in an uncomfortable position to afford her the best reach at Eridan’s violet streak of hair. You watch as she succeeds in her quest, seizing a firm handful of fibers and jerking down. Eridan emits a hiss of pain so loud, you can hear it over the blaring music. Kanaya laughs her aristocrat’s laugh, holding a hand in front of her face to hide the upturned corners of her ink-dark lips. Eridan growls, the sound pitch-black (you aren’t sure if it’s directed at Rose or Kanaya), before diving down to sink his seadweller teeth into Rose’s collarbone. A drop of red squeezes its way out of the puncture and down her shoulder in a rivulet, and Rose groans and ah, shit, maybe you shouldn’t be looking here anymore.
You’ve never seen Equius dance, but you think it’s probably for the best that he sits slumped over, drenched with sweat, in a hastily-alchemized rickety wooden chair that looks as though it’s about to collapse at any moment. Nepeta perches like a wingbeast on his knee as though she weighs nothing, and Tavros’ dancestor is sprawled out fast-asleep on the floor with his back cushioned by his large translucent wings. You watch as Nepeta grins, shushing Equius, before leaping directly onto Rufioh’s exposed stomach. His eyes fly open and he wheezes loudly, the wind knocked clean out of him by a hundred and twelve pounds of dense cattroll, and you and Equius both quirk an eyebrow as Nepeta leans down and blows a massive raspberry on Rufioh’s cheek. He laughs, avoiding her sharp horns as he ruffles her hair.
You sense an unfamiliar presence at your side, and you do a double take. You think Nepeta’s somehow in two places at once for a split second before you realize, oh, it’s her dancestor tapping on your shoulder. You turn to face her fully, and her mouth drops into a perfect O.
“Oh. Em. Gee.” Her voice is loud enough for you to hear her perfectly over the ambient din, and for once you don’t dislike having that in common with her. “You’re so cute!! You look just like Kankri!” You can practically hear the multiple shoutpoles in her sentence.
“Uh, thanks. I guess. Meowlin, right?”
“It’s quite clawlright! My ameowzing little dancestor told me all about you.” She reaches up (she’s so short she actually has to reach up, wow) and cups your face in her hands. You’re surprised to find that you don’t mind. “We’re all very excited you’re here, you know.”
“I know. Why? Some of you I’ve never even fucking met.”
“That’s true, I suppaws. But we’re mostly just happy that efuryone is here in one piece.” She stands up on her very tiptoes and kisses you on the cheek. Your skin burns where her lips touch you, and when she pulls back she simply smiles before turning and melting back into the crowd.
You rub your cheek idly as you stare after her. You quickly snap out of it as Terezi winds herself around you like a slitherbeast, twice as long and half as scaly. Dirk lifts up his shades to wink at you, and he musses up your hair as he passes.
“Karkat! I almost didn’t even notice you were here!” She grins and falls back, trusting you to catch her before she hits the ground. You do, of course, pulling her hips back up to yours. And then there’s another body pressing up behind her, a short girl so warm you can feel the heat radiating around and through the troll in front of you. Aradia’s dancestor. Terezi sighs, relaxing into the rustblood’s warmth. Highbloods like heat.
Damara wiggles her eyebrows at you and says something around her cigarette that you can’t understand. Rather than ask her to repeat what she said, you opt to simply smile awkwardly and sidle away. Before you can, however, Damara rolls her eyes (and somehow, you can tell, even though they’re blank) and seizes your wrist. You barely manage to sputter before she takes the cigarette out of her mouth and pulls you forwards and—
—slams your lips into hers, what the fuck—
—Damara’s hot, scaldingly so, and you can’t help but melt against her. She tastes of some sort of drug that you don’t recognize, of waxy lipstick, of cinnamon and soot. Terezi giggles in that shattered-glass way of hers between you two, and she rolls her hips against Damara as she slides one cool hand up and over your shoulder, dipping it down under the collar of your shirt. You shiver, mentally vacillating between the temperature differences, trying to reconcile them.
Your eyes snap open as Terezi shrieks indignantly and all three of you are suddenly wrenched apart; someone you recognize as John has a fistful of Terezi’s hair and a mean-looking smile on his face, Damara’s got one arm each held fast by Latula and Mituna who each sport identical grins, and your own torso is pinned between Dave’s simmering heat and a chilly-skinned Vriska.
“You okay with this?” You stutter out, head tilted towards your boymate-friendsprit as Vriska sucks one, two, three marks into the side of your neck. Dave smiles (and he shows his teeth, how rare) and mutters, “I can more than take Serket if she fucks you up, don’t worry.”
“You wish, Strider,” snarls Vriska between fangy bites—you now have eight cherry-red rings forming a necklace on your collar, adorned with smudges of cerulean and miniscule holes where her sharp teeth had pricked you. Apt.
“‘s not what I—what I—ohhhh, fuck,” your reprimanding is cut short by something you can only describe as an impossible maneuver; and that’s really all there is to say on the matter. Vriska’s hands are on your neck in such a way that it exposes itself to her without your knowledge, and then both she and the boy pressing against your back duck their heads down and holy hell, how can they both possibly have their lips on the same patch of skin at the same time? Vriska’s mouth is a cavern of cold, her tongue and teeth like pricks of ice on your sensitive flesh. Dave’s, by comparison, is aflame—he drags his tongue Terezi-style over the spot that Vriska was just nibbling at, the rapid fluctuation in temperature makes you huff out a shaky breath. Your attempt to seek out the feeling again leads to you trying to hold yourself flush against both of them at once, and spectacularly failing. Gradually, the stimulation recedes, and you turn to see them both somewhat occupied. They have their hands fisted in each other’s hair, their lips crushing together with so much force it looks as though they’re trying to bite each other’s tongues out at the root. Both their glasses are missing, and remnants of Dave’s blood have turned Vriska’s painted lips ever so slightly purple. It’s very funny to you for some reason. You think that whatever you’d shotgunned from Damara when she kissed you is taking effect.
You extricate yourself from in between them. It takes some finagling, due to both how tightly they’re holding onto you and how tightly they’re pressing up against each other. As soon as your body is no longer an obstruction, Vriska snaps her body up to meet Dave’s; he seizes her sharply by the hips in retaliation, and she shoves a bony knee between his legs. He makes a groaning sort of sound that definitely makes something stir in you and Vriska both, because you flush bright red and blue respectively and she grinds her patella harder into Dave’s crotch. Two pairs of hands seize you around the waist and pull you back into the crowd.
You barely manage to cut off a panicked yell and flail for a moment, thrown off your rhythm, but you relax when you see who it is. It’s Feferi and John’s dancestor, their eyes half-lidded and their hands roaming. Well, Feferi’s more than Jane’s--cold smooth seadweller hands trace the outline of your ribs beneath your sweater, dancing over your grub scars and making you suck in your breath, while shorter, warmer human fingers swipe delicately across your shoulder and the curve of your jaw. It’s a strangely intimate, pale gesture for such an environment, and when you look at Jane she ducks shyly out of your vision and presses her red-lipsticked mouth to the hollow of your cheek. You feel the residue of the makeup land directly next to Aradia’s already-dried kiss-print from before, and you have to suppress a snort at the thought of starting a collection. You know that whatever you’d shotgunned from Damara when she kissed you is taking effect.
Feferi hisses something into Jane’s ear and she’s off like a shot, streaking across the room towards something (someone?) you can’t see until she disappears between Kanaya and you-think-his-name-is-Jake. You watch her go until you feel an unfamiliar presence between your horns. Feferi’s still with you and she’s got her fingers in your hair, you sense the brushing of her knuckles against your scalp. She wiggles her body in some kind of way against yours, grabs your hands and places them on either of her hips. You lean closer to her--
And then she’s gone again, vanished into the crowd leaving nothing but a ghost of a teasing giggle behind her, nearly inaudible under the music. You deflate (but only a little), drifting off to the side of the massive tent before anyone else can hold you up. You take the opportunity to sweep your gaze around the tent again.
Your eyes pass over John and Terezi, her claws embedded in the soft skin of his shoulders, his glasses askew and his hands wrapped so tight around her horns you fear he’ll break them. Cronus and Damara, his cigarette flattened under her heel and his scratchy fingernails under her shirt against her bare skin. Sollux and Aradia, lips locked, pressed so close to each other that you almost can’t tell where she ends and he begins.
A hand brushes your shoulder and you spin, your face breaking into a grin as you spy Dave in front of you. He’s alone, his shades in place (albeit with a fresh new Serket-sponsored crack down the left lens) and a smile on his own face. He makes a “come on” gesture with two fingers before melting into the crowd--you rush to follow, before he disappears from sight again.
You struggle all the way through the tent curtains into the open air before he takes your hand and spins you fast, around until you’re dizzy. He’s laughing, open and real and it makes you start laughing too, pushing his shades up into his hair and your face close to his. He slides his hands up to your cheeks and kisses you until you can barely breathe.
“Missed you,” he says into your hair, and you let out a breath.
“Missed you too.”
You decide it’s been a happy first day of the rest of eternity.