Your name is DAVE STRIDER and you are about to hock your turntables.
It's taking every ounce of self-control you possess to keep your cool and not haul ass out of this pawn shop. The clerk is giving your sweet setup the once over and making skeptical old man thinking sounds as he does it. As if your gear is anything but choice. You came to this shop specifically because of its reputation for moving audio and audio related things. You're more likely to squeeze a few extra bucks out of the guy if he can turn over your stuff quickly. He finally looks back up at you, trying to meet your gaze behind your shades. "500," he says flat and definitive. You bite back the urge to flip off the handle and instead respond back just as flatly. "These are pro grade, brand name, and nowhere near out of date. They aren't hot either." The old man's mustache jostles back and forth as he mutters to himself. "This is a pawn shop kid, ya ain't gettin top dollar." You press your mouth into a thin line and bob your head as you think and look at the stuff around you. Even if it is a pawn shop, he's still trying to rip you off in hopes that you're desperate enough to bite. You're eyes catch a digital setup that is one hell of a step down from what you have, but not the bottom of the barrel. "Throw in that and I'll take the 500." Keep it cool, Strider, you're not desperate, just cleaning house. Just keeping it real. Keep it together. You've got this. Your internal monolog is thankfully interrupted from its endless loop by the clerk abruptly jutting out his hand to seal the deal and you swear the sudden movement knocks 3 years off your life.
The second you get back to the apartment you begin frantically packing up your shit. Bro landed some big out of state gig which has made this plan HELLA easier, but still INCREDIBLY nerve-wracking. You suspect Dirk may have had a hand in securing that gig for Bro, but you can't be certain because you haven't been able to truly have a conversation with the guy in years. Since Bro kicked him out, the two of you have had to primarily communicate by passing notes through mutual friends over secure connections.
Your began hatching this plan about two years ago, which feels insane now that the day has finally come. By some miracle your community college credits transferred and you got off the waitlist for a university far away from Houston, but more importantly, far away from Bro. You're going to be a week late getting there, but that's fine by you if it means a better chance of not getting caught leaving. Maybe it's just paranoia-- which isn't in short supply, that's for sure, but it feels like Bro has been kicking your ass harder lately almost like he knows something is up. Your last strife before he took off was all hells of brutal. You don't want to think about what he would do if he caught you acting like such a coward. Your body aches with protest as you continue shoving clothes indiscriminately into one of those drawstring backpacks that seem to be bottomless and going over your mental checklist.
You have your new shitty turntables and audio gear nestled in with your camera stuff and your laptop in a duffle bag. It was a bitch to get that in a box all together like that, but you know you'll thank yourself later when it's easier to carry. Your records, however, are packed up tight in a separate box. Like hell are you leaving them behind. So that's it. Two boxes. Aside from your clothes, everything you value most fits in two boxes. Those are shipping out after you. Dirk pulled some strings with a friend of his. He didn't trust shipping your stuff to his apartment or the school, so instead you're sending them to an electronics shop nearby, Zahhak's or something like that.
Your phone buzzes. The uber to get you out of this place is here. You glance around the room one last time to make sure you aren't forgetting anything. You can't believe this is actually happening. The knock at the door makes you jump, and for a split second, you think it's Bro before remembering that 1. Bro wouldn't knock, and 2. you're paying the driver a little extra under the table to help you carry down this stuff. In addition to that last strife, you and the stairs became very well acquainted recently and you are still very much feeling it. When you answer the door you find out your driver is a Troll and a psionic if you're not mistaken. You are no expert on their whole blood superpowers deal but, yeah no that's telekinesis happening to your stuff right there. No wonder she was so willing to agree to haul your stuff.
You drop your shit off at UPS before embarking on the world's least comfortable bus ride. Even hours into it your nerves are still wracked and you're too on edge to sleep. No one would ever guess though. You've got that expressionless cool kid thing on lock. Set it to autopilot and watch it go. You've got this. totally. 100%. Making it happen.
Your name is SOLLUX CAPTOR and you are in the zone with this project, but this is the second time you've picked up this coffee cup only to be met with disappointment.
You look at your computer screen, then back to your empty coffee cup, and then to the door of your dorm room. With a sigh, you remove yourself from your chair. When you stand up your back cracks in three places and it is amazing. You glance at the clock and realize you've worked straight through very late and right into very early. Eh, doesn't matter; time is irrelevant. Plus now you can go to the cafeteria instead of the cafe, which means less of a distance for you to walk and less time away from your project. You hadn't really been feeling it when it was first assigned, but it had grown on you when you realized you could repurpose one of your abandoned projects for it. You have a DISGUSTING amount of ABANDONED projects. It's almost on par with the backlog of games in your Steam library.
Your best friend's dorm is across the hall from you. Well, sort of. Your dorm has a DOUBLE HALLWAY because your life is plagued with duality, not that you particularly mind that. The building has dorm rooms on either outer side, and down the center at either end are staircases, with the elevator in the middle next to the RA's room. You're fairly certain this would violate a fire code if not for the recently added, yet still somehow shitty fire escape that runs down the short side of the building. The last rooms on either side of the horseshoe can see each other's doors. Karkat's is directly across and presently there is someone with a large duffle bag at his door.
"Come on, open up. I know you're in there. No one wakes up this early on a Saturday." A red zip hoodie that looks more expensive than need be, black jeans that somehow scrunch perfectly at the bottom to show off red hi-top sneakers, and Black aviator shades while indoors. He looks like a douche. Then again, no one would describe you as fashionable.
"He's not there," you say. The guy groans and leans back against the door. You narrow your eyes at him. Now that he's facing you, you think you've seen him before. "You're Karkat's roommate, right? You showed up like a week late or something" He looks up at you with a blank expression before raising an eyebrow and flashing you a charming smile.
"Yeah, Dave Strider, the pleasure's all yours I'm sure." You were right the first time, he's a douchebag. The most obnoxious ringtone goes off and he takes out his phone, his face going back to the aloof steeled expression as he reads a text message. "Hey, that's your dorm right?" he asked, gesturing with his chin at the door behind you. Before you can answer, he continues. "Could I maybe leave my shit in your room for a bit? I'm locked out and I've gotta uhh... be someplace like five minutes ago." He flashes you that fake charming grin again. What could it hurt? If he's Karkat's roommate then you're definitely going to know him better eventually. Better to let it be a surprise that you're an ass. It's more entertaining that way.
"Yeah, sure, whatever." You say with a shrug and reopen your door for him. He picks up the bag and hurries over.
"Sweet, I'll be back in a few hours. You gonna be around?" Wow, how extraordinarily specific. He's lucky you're a shut-in.
"I'm not going anywhere." He gives you a nod and says he owes you one as he disappears down the stairs, literally. The guy is fucking quick. You could swear you only saw his after image.
You relock your door and continue down the stairs on your quest for caffeine. In the entrance lobby, you spy Roxy sitting behind the check-in desk. She looks like she's still wearing last night's clothes and definitely wearing last nights eyeliner. Her hot pink laptop is in front of her and she's glaring at the screen like it has personally insulted her. You leave her too it, but on the way back, with your coffee now secured, you wander around to the other side to look over her shoulder.
"Your code is spaghetti" You comment as you watch her scroll through it presumably trying to hunt down a missing bracket. She has a particular glare reserved exclusively for that.
"Sure is a weird way to pronounce 'complex'." She grumbles back. You see the errant bracket before she does and gently swat away her hand so you can add it in. She makes a sound of offense as she looks up and back at you. "You little shit."
A smug grin is plastered on your face and is doing little to save you from her wrath. Luckily you brought a peace offering. You reveal the second cup of coffee just as she's about to go off on you, and watch as her mouth slowly closes into something resembling a pout and her eyes narrow at you.
"Unfortunately, yes." You are a two sugars kind of guy to no one's surprise. Her expression softens as she snatches up the cup and takes a long sip.
"I'll let you live this time, Captor."
She flips you off as you leave.
It is several hours later, not that you noticed, when you just barely hear a knock at your door through your headphones. It's not so much of a knock as it is a rhythmic beat. After nearly clotheslining yourself with the cable of your headphones, you make your way over to the door and open it to find Strider leaning against the frame. "Sup." He says with a tilt of his chin. You wordlessly step aside and open the door for him so he can get his shit and get out. You're almost offended when he unzips the bag to check that it's all still there.
"I didn't jack any of your shit," although now you're curious about what exactly his shit is if it's so worth being jacked. "What's in there that's so important that you'd think I'd steal it?" Or maybe it's not expensive; maybe it's illegal. You peer over his shoulder trying to get a look. "If it's drugs, sharing is caring." This earns you the most unemotive laugh you've ever heard in your life, the pinnacle of aloof cool kid sounds of mild amusement. Another tally on the douche counter.
"Chill, man," he says "It's electronics." Oh, well now that is something worth checking. Seeing your interest piqued, he turns to the side to show you what looks like some kind of audio equipment jumbled in with some other stuff and a laptop. Not in a case or anything, just a laptop tossed in a bag full of equal or more breakable objects.
"Jeez, who taught you how to transport your gear."
"I was in a rush," he says with a shrug. Your palm husk vibrates and you look to see that Karkat is messaging you.
carcinoGeneticist [CG] began trolling twinArmageddons [TA]
CG: I WOULD LIKE TO REDEEM A SOLID
This does not bode well for you.
CG: APPARENTLY MY DUMBASS OF A ROOMMATE HAS LOCKED HIMSELF OUT AFTER BEING HERE FOR A GRAND TOTAL OF 2 DAYS AND I'M NOT GOING TO BE BACK UNTIL SUNDAY AFTERNOON. SEEING AS YOU LACK A ROOMMATE, CAN SHIT FOR BRAINS CRASH IN YOUR ROOM UNTIL I GET BACK TOMORROW?
CG: I PROMISE HE ISN'T A SERIAL KILLER
You look up from your palm husk at Dave who is staring back at you expectantly as if he knows Karkat is messaging you. You don't normally just let people occupy your space, especially people who are practically strangers. And while Karkat is vouching for him, he doesn't know this guy too well either. And yet, something seems to sway you, although you can't quite place it.
TA: you owe me
CG: WHAT? NO! THIS IS A SOLID REDEMPTION. I HAVE A VOUCHER FOR ONE (1) SOLID FROM SOLLUX "GOT HIS POPTARTS STUCK IN THE VENDING MACHINE" CAPTOR. IT'S SIGNED AND NOTARIZED.
TA: thii2 ii2 clearly worth at lea2t two 2oliid2 leaviing you at -1 2oliid2
TA: you owe me a 2oliid
CG: FINE. WHATEVER.
You tuck your palm husk back in your pocket and glance back at Dave. "You owe me a solid," might as well make it a two for one deal. "The top bunk is mine. You can crash on the bottom one." You mostly use that one as a seating area. The idea of people sitting or lounging around on your bed is uncomfortable. It's not a thing you let people do. That is your sanctuary and yours alone. Although for some reason you could not give less of a fuck when it's the other way around, and in fact have been known to walk into Karkat's room like you own the joint and make yourself at home on his bed.
Dave flashes you a grin. "Sweet deal." He looks like he's about to continue or elaborate, but as he goes to stand up he's cut off by a hiss of pain and grabs his side, causing him to nearly drop his laptop. The sudden shift in the room's atmosphere catches you off your guard.
"You alright?" It is truly the most brilliant thing you've ever said. A shining monument to your social prowess and you just sort of stand there unsure how to respond to having a stranger collapse on your floor. Well, not collapse so much as fail miserably at becoming upright.
"Yeah, I'm cool. So cool. Cooler than a polar bear throwing back only the highest of high fructose soda. None of that RC cola. Name brand." Dave says from his position half crouched on the floor. His voice is slightly strained as if he's trying not to take too deep of a breath. "Just moved wrong. I'm good." It doesn't take someone as smart as you to realize he's lying through his teeth.
"You must make a lot of money selling such high-quality bullshit." You deadpan back at him out of habit and instantly regret. It makes him laugh which only has him holding his side a little tighter. You feel a bit bad about it. With a sigh, you offer him your hand and after a moment of staring at it, he finally takes it and lets you pull him to his feet. The way he crashes into your shoulder and steadies himself with his hand on your arm does an awful thing to your stomach that you choose to ignore. "Your ribs are busted, huh?" You only half ask. Mituna had managed that twice. Once on concrete and another time on asphalt. He was a lot louder about it than Dave is being though, so maybe not.
"Nah, hella bruised, but not broken," he says as he carefully takes a seat on the bed.
You nod, unsure of where to take this fascinatingly awkward conversation. "Cool, so..." you start as you make your way back to your desk. You really need to get a new chair. There is no way to sit in this one that resembles comfortable. You settle for sitting sideways slouched halfway against the armrest and the back with one leg hanging over the opposite armrest and the other tucked beneath it. Your spine hates you. "yeah, I'm just gonna continue working on this. You can do whatever, just don't touch my bees." You say as you slip on your headphones and prepare to get back into the zone. Bringing your standard beehouses to the dorm is not allowed, of course, you wouldn't want to anyway, but you do have a small form factor beehouse jammed in one of the windows. It hasn't quite gotten cold enough yet that you need to bring it completely inside, so, for now, you're letting your bees roam as they please.
You've only been at it for a few minutes when you sense Dave standing close behind you. Music paused, you slowly look up and back at him. "Can I help you?" He seems completely oblivious to your mildly annoyed tone.
"Nah, just checking out your mad matrix skills." Oh boy, here we go. "My bro does some of that crazy computer stuff. My cousin too. It's all fucking magic to me, but it looks cool."
You roll your eyes. "I would have never guessed," you say with a small huff. "If they don't hate each other, I'm gonna take a stab in the dark and say that they don't do the same 'computer stuff'." He gives a shrug and wanders back over to the bed where his laptop is open. You look back at your screen and the wall of text on it. Your groove is gone. The zone is closed. It's down for maintenance, check back later. You sigh, save your work, and close your windows. "You smash bros?" you ask in a somewhat defeated tone having resigned to being social tonight. He looks up from his computer and puts a hand to his chest.
"I'm flattered, Skinny. Really I am, but-"
"Oh my god, no, you complete fucknut. Super Smash Bros. Do you play it?" The subtle smirk on his face tells you he knew exactly what you meant. Was he just trying to get you to say that because of your lisp? Asshole. You throw your hands up in the air and let them fall in a dramatic fashion as you turn to get a controller before whipping back around. "And my name is Sollux, not Skinny." You turn on the console and press a button on the small switch box by your monitor to change the input to it instead of your computer. "If you're playing, grab a controller." You gesture to the bin of video game accessories next to your desk. You really ought to sort it out before it gets any more tangled than it is. Okay so, full disclosure, this is totally a test. It's a test that Strider fails miserably. The only way he could have failed harder was if he picked the wiimote without the nunchuck. Even that is debatable. You could chalk that up to ignorance, but this was a choice. The nunchuck wasn't connected; He sought it out. "You've gotta be kidding me." You eye his decision with blatant judgment as he goes back to the bed. The guy just shrugs and offers an innocent 'what?' in response. You scoot your chair back and fire up the game using the only acceptable controller. Now for the second test. Time to see who this fucker selects. You pick Pikachu and fully expect to have to wait for Dave to scroll through all the characters a few times, but he's already selected and changing to an alternate skin. "Link?" you ask, one eyebrow raised up like it's trying to party with your hair.
"Yeah, bro. Don't dis my hero of time like that." He plays it so straight that you wonder if he actually mains Link and isn't just fucking with you. Whatever, his funeral.
"I'm going to destroy you."