Being a lusus is hard. It's hard and nobody understands.
Karkat used to be the cutest grub. You love him so much! From the moment you first scented him, you knew that he was special. My grub. Mine. You remember all his firsts with startling clarity: his first steps out of the brooding caverns, his first screech at the carpenter drone as he fearlessly dictated how he wanted the hive built, his first word ("FFFFF, FFF! FF-FUCK! FUCK FUCK FUCK!"), his first set of grub-booties… You flip through an album of his grub pictures and coo in lamentation for the bond you once had. He still drew pictures of you up until he was six sweeps old! How, you wonder, has your precious grubling come to be such a surly teenager?
You feel unneeded. Karkat calls you a dumbass and accuses you of smothering him. And he's right in some ways. He's become a very independent young troll - you're so proud of him! He's been taking care of himself and his friends for sweeps now, especially since you… Well, you died in an explosion. But then you resurrected! You were a game sprite for a while, and though he might try to deny it, Karkat most definitely cried and hugged you when you came back. But then you died again… But the game's over now and you've resurrected once more! Your powers of fatherly love truly transcend universes!
Pitiable little wiggler!, because he will always be your little wiggler, Sweet grubling, Daddy's here now! You're here now, in your new hive in a new universe, and Karkat is still a minor, so by Jesus fucking Sufferer you are going to do your dadly duties!
"WHAT THE FUCK NOW, DAD?"
"FUCK NO I DON'T WANT TO STRIFE!"
"OH MY GOG I'M JUST GOING OVER TO SOLLUX'S HIVE, GET OFF MY BACK."
"Khhhhht," you grumble. Karkat slams the door and leaves you slumped on the couch like a washed-up deadbeat stay-at-home dad with nothing to do all day now that the kids are gone. ...Okay, that is pretty much exactly what you are. All you ever do is watch romcoms, anyway. You watch romcoms with Karkat when he's home, and you watch romcoms alone when he's not. Sometimes you go out and catch something for dinner. Then you come home and watch more romcoms.
You consider making a trip next door to socialize with your new neighbor, Mr. Crocker-Egbert. (Or, as you like to think of him in your head, Cakedad.) Perhaps he will teach you a new recipe, and perhaps, for once in your life, it will not result in you burning down the nutrition block.
You're hunched over feeling sorry for yourself when the hive door opens just a crack and Karkat sticks his head back in. You immediately look up to regard him, hoping for a strife just like old times! The hope, you're sure, is shining in your eyes! I love you, son! Love you love you love you! You lift your claws up, inviting him to aggress.
"DAD," he says, sighing and shaking his head, "YOU REALLY NEED A HOBBY. OR A DATE."
Crabdad, you tell yourself, you're not getting any younger. Maybe now's the time to settle down with a nice matesprit. Lusii don't normally refer to their relationships in terms of quadrants, but you've watched too many troll romance movies not to.
And then it dawns on you that you're pretty much a romance expert. A plan starts to form…
The plan solidifies when Seahorsedad drops by.
Seahorsedad's wiggler is a highblood, a seadweller prince, and if this were Alternia there would be no way you'd let those genocidal fish fucks into your hive. Karkat vouches for him, though, and drags his friend along into his respiteblock. Still, you eavesdrop a little and overhear the Ampora wiggler blubbering about his quadrants to Karkat, and you think, well, if the wigglers all come to your son for advice, maybe you can do the same for the custodians?
You take a tray of chilled roe cubes outside to share with Seahorsedad because you're a good host like that.
"Riiiiii," he says. "Eeehrrriiiiiiinnn."
Yeah, you agree. They really do grow up so fast. The two of you stuff yourselves with roe cubes and wallow over your teenage-wiggler woes.
It comes out in conversation that Seahorsedad is single and lonely. You ask if he's got his eye on anyone, or if there's a certain type he's attracted to. C'mon, you say, you can trust ol' Crabdad. Crabdad knows all about romance.
Then why are you single?, he asks.
Same reason as you - I was focused on raising my wiggler.
But now that they're almost grown up, isn't it time the two of you, and maybe the rest of the lusii, started looking? You tell Seahorsedad that you're going to set him up. Him and all the rest of the Sgrub lusii.
He tells you he's flushed for Tinkerbull.
adiosToreador [AT] began trolling caligulasAquarium [CA] at 9:52
AT: hELLO, eRIDAN,,,
CA: hey tavv surprised to see you trollin me
AT: yES, aBOUT THAT, i KNOW WE DON'T TALK ALL THAT MUCH
AT: bUT i HAVE, a THING THAT i WANTED TO ASK YOU
AT: iT'S ABOUT, uH, yOUR LUSUS
CA: you knoww wwhere hes been goin lately
CA: ivve been meanin to ask you but i thought it could wwait
AT: tHAT CERTAINLY IS, a THING THAT i KNOW
AT: yOUR LUSUS HAS MOSTLY BEEN VISITING MY HIVE, i THINK, bECAUSE i SEE HIM A LOT
CA: wwell wwhats he doin there
AT: hE, uH, hAS BEEN THROWING DOWN SOME SLAM POETRY,,,
AT: wHICH IS ACTUALLY PRETTY GOOD,,,
CA: just spit it out tavv
AT: bASICALLY HE HAS BEEN SERENADING, mY LUSUS,
AT: bY WHICH i MEAN HE WANTS TO DATE tINKERBULL
AT: aRE YOU, oKAY WITH THAT
CA: oh my cod
However, things have been very strange recently. It began when you noticed Seahorsedad was hanging around a lot. Tinkerbull was getting a bit uneasy around him, but he wouldn't tell you why when you asked. You decided not to pry because it's just rude to dig into someone's brain when they've told you not to. You don't like forcing beasts as intelligent as lusii to do your bidding when you commune with them; asking usually works just fine.
Then one night you were playing Fiduspawn with Tinkerbull and someone knocked on the hive door. "I'm, uh, going to see who it is," you said to Tinkerbull. He nodded and flew behind you.
It was Seahorsedad. He asked if he could speak to Tinkerbull alone.
"Uh," you said.
Slam the door in his face! Tinkerbull said. So that is what you did. (Sorry, Seahorsedad.)
It turns out that earlier that night, while you were out, Seahorsedad had already cornered Tinkerbull and started slamming wicked love poems at him. And later, as you and Tinkerbull were trying to go to sleep, Seahorsedad flew right up to your window and rapped at him some more.
You trolled Eridan and got the impression that he was freaked out by this as well, so tonight you went out to the yard and communed with Seahorsedad and politely asked for him to stop whatever strange courtship ritual that was supposed to be. You said, in no uncertain terms, that Tinkerbull was not playing hard to get. No, really, he's not interested.
You were not expecting for Crabdad to burst out of the bushes and start yelling.
Your current predicament is this: Seahorsedad is sulking by the bushes outside while Crabdad has bullied his way into your hive and is loudly insisting that Seahorsedad would be perfect for Tinkerbull.
Crabdad is a lot like Karkat… Actually it's probably the other way around. Most trolls share more personality traits with their lusus than they realize. Tinkerbull is unusually patient and good-natured, but can be very stubborn about certain things, romance being one of them. Crabdad means well, but is extremely pushy when he gets revved up. He has never been this revved up on his previous visits and you are quickly discovering that this pushiness, when paired with Tinkerbull's stubbornness, is… not a good combination.
"SKRAAAARKT!" Crabdad waves his claw around trying to get Tinkerbull's attention.
Tinkerbull is hovering at your shoulder with his butt to Crabdad. "Vroooo," he says, gesturing to his ass.
"Uh, wow, that was really rude. Sorry, Crabdad."
"You are probably right about that… I, uh, also agree that Seahorsedad's poems were the illest of ill, and they will, maybe, make some lusus really happy, someday. But today, is not that day. And Tinkerbull, is not that lusus."
"...Skskskt," Crabdad says. He drops his claw dejectedly.
You feel really bad about popping his bubble, so you reach up to pat his head in what you hope is a comforting manner.
CA: is my dumbass lusus ovver there
CA: tell him to come pick me up
CA: he dropped me off at kars place an im still here
CA: better yet tell him to nevver vvisit your hivve again
CA: dad mackin on your dad is creepin me out so bad you dont evven knoww
CA: i mean dont get me wwrong i wwant him to be happy
CA: but howw wwould they evven do it
CA: theyre nowwhere near the same size
CA: tavv are you there
AT: sORRY, i WAS DISTRACTED
AT: yEAH, i TOLD YOUR DAD TO PICK YOU UP
AT: aS FOR THE OTHER THING, i DON'T THINK YOU HAVE TO WORRY
AT: tHINGS DIDN'T WORK OUT, bETWEEN THEM
CA: wwell thank jegus for that
CA: begs the question though wwhys he still goin to your place
CA: aww cmon tavv dont do this to me
AT: i THINK i HAVE BEEN, rECRUITED, iS PROBABLY THE RIGHT WORD
AT: tO HELP YOUR DAD FIND SOMEONE TO DATE
So your first attempt at matchmaking was a failure. Well, the path to true love has never been easy… In the romcoms it usually takes at least three tries before the protagonists get together. You briefly entertain thoughts of pushing Seahorsedad to pursue Tinkerbull as a kismesis instead, and if that doesn't work, you or someone else could step in to auspisticize…
"Uh, please don't… Tinkerbull, is not interested in a romance, with either of you."
True, you're not interested in Tinkerbull anyway. But wow, Tinkerbull's wiggler is so nice it nearly slays you. He hasn't yelled at you even once; you can't recall him ever raising his voice at anyone, actually. It's also easy for you to talk to him because he can read your thoughts, so there's none of the usual difficulties associated with communication with any troll other than your son. You wonder why you didn't encourage Karkat to be better friends with Nitram-wiggler. Oh wait. That might have been because he's cullbait.
"While that is, a thing that is true, or, uh, was true, I would appreciate if you would refrain from thinking of me like that, because I have self-esteem now, and I am standing up for myself when I say that the humans are right, that kindness is not a weakness."
Tinkerbull's eyes widen and fill with tears. "Vroooo!" I'm so proud of you, Tavros! He flutters about his wiggler and nuzzles him all over his face. Nitram nuzzles back and it is. So cute. Why. Why does your own little grub never hug you like that anymore?
"Oh, sorry, I didn't mean to, uh, flaunt my relationship with my lusus like that."
It's okay, Nitram-wiggler. A good troll-lusus relationship always makes your blood-pusher flutter.
"In that case, thank you."
Right, right. No big deal. You'll just have to hug-ambush Karkat when you get back to your hive. Nitram giggles at the thought. You get the vague sense that he really really wants you to hug-embarrass Karkat…
"As revenge, yes. Uh, friendly revenge, for when he made fun of me, for playing games for girls."
Tinkerbull giggles too, as evilly as a tiny fairy bull can. Since they are your new allies on your RomantiQuest, it wouldn't be so bad to give them what they want, would it? Especially if it's also what you want. Yes! Tonight will see many hugs for Crabdad! And also cuddles if you can pin Karkat in the ensuing strife.
"Hehehe… Excellent…" Tavros steeples his hands as he plots and, for once, you think he might have what it takes to be a properly ruthless troll. You ruffle his hair with your claw.
Good wiggler. Best sidekick.
CG: TAVROS, YOU ARE A GIGANTIC WASTE CHUTE. FIFTY GREEN SUNS GOING SUPERNOVA ALL AT ONCE ARE NOT ENOUGH OF A CATASTROPHE TO EXPRESS THE KIND OF EXPLOSIVE DIARRHEA THAT YOU ARE. WHAT KIND OF 'FRIEND' WOULD DO THAT TO HIS 'FRIEND'? FUCK, DID SPIDER BITCH MIND-CONTROL YOU INTO THIS OR WERE YOU ALWAYS SUCH AN AWFUL FUCKING TROLL DEEP INSIDE, HIDING YOUR EXTREME PERVERSIONS BEHIND A FACADE OF HELPLESSNESS LIKE A HUNGRY LUREBEAST. AND ALL THIS TIME I NEVER KNEW, SHAME ON ME. OH BOO FUCKING HOO I'M TAVROS NITRAM AND I'M SOOOO NICE. UNSUSPECTING TROLLS COME BY AND THEN YOU RISE UP OUT OF THE DEPTHS TO BITE THEIR FUCKING HEADS OFF, YOU SICK FUCK.
CG: NOW GET THE HELL ONLINE SO I CAN SPOONFEED MY RAGE DIRECTLY INTO YOUR AURICULAR SPONGE CLOTS.
AT: wOW, wHAT BROUGHT THIS ON
CG: DON'T PLAY DUMB WITH ME. I KNOW YOU WERE BEHIND THIS.
AT: i'M SURE i HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU MEAN,,, i HAVEN'T BEEN UP TO ANYTHING LATELY, mUCH LESS, aNYTHING THAT HAS TO DO WITH YOU
CG: HA FUCKING HA. THERE'S NO WAY MY IDIOT LUSUS COULD HAVE COME UP WITH THIS BY HIMSELF. I KNOW HE WAS AT YOUR HIVE.
AT: hE SAID YOU TOLD HIM TO GET A HOBBY, aND HE WANTED TO BECOME A MATCHMAKER, fOR LUSII
AT: i WAS JUST HELPING HIM GET IN TOUCH WITH THE OTHER LUSII, wHO MIGHT WANT TO ENGAGE HIS SERVICES
CG: ...OKAY, THAT MAKES SENSE.
CG: IGNORE ALL THAT STUFF I SAID BEFORE. I HAD TO ENDURE LIKE FOUR FUCKING HOURS OF NONSTOP HUGGING FROM MY LUSUS. IS IT ANY WONDER I DID A FANCY FUCKING PIROUETTE OFF THE GODDAMN HANDLE? NOT THAT IT WAS YOUR FAULT.
CG: FUCK, I'M SUCH AN ASSHOLE. YOU WERE HELPING MY DAD AND I WENT OFF ON YOU, GOD, PAST ME IS THE BIGGEST JERK.
AT: wERE THEY AT LEAST, gOOD HUGS
AT: }> :)
CG: OH, YOU BASTARD. IT IS ON. IT IS ON LIKE HUMAN DONKEY KONG.
Karkat grows extra-wary of you for the next few nights. That's okay because you and Nitram-wiggler have plans, big plans! Tonight's big plan is… a social mixer!
It occurred to you just a while ago that you're not so close to the other lusii as to know their romantic preferences. In some cases you don't even know much about them besides the basics. You know Seahorsedad and Tinkerbull pretty well now, and sometimes you chat with Pounce de Leon when you happen to meet her on a hunting trip. You only get along with the red half of Biclopsdad. Aurthour finds you crass and you find him uptight. It's inconvenient to meet with those who live in the sea; also you avoid going down there for obvious, life-preserving reasons.
Nitram has assured you that Spidermom and Gl'bgolyb are no longer as large and menacing as they once were, thanks to the Jade human's space powers. They're probably still more trouble than they're worth, but you allow them to come to the event for the sake of your matchmaking integrity. You also find them platonically pitiful in that you think it must have been a lonely existence for them to be so feared in the past, their hunger so out of control that they wound up eating all potential friends and suitors and whatnot.
With such legendary appetites in attendance, you've made sure to supply the gathering with extra cake. The event will feature catering by Cakedad. He agreed to help out in exchange for borrowing a wrench for hive repairs - that is, your claw. Never let it be said that Crabdad is not a helpful neighbor! But yes, there will be much in the way of baked goods. Nitram has also promised to bring his friend's "special brownies". You have no idea what makes them special, but you look forward to finding out.
You have high hopes for this party, high hopes indeed! It's with a bit of extra pep in your step that you make your way down to the meeting spot. The agreed-upon location is the beach below the cliffs of Tinkerbull's hive; you think this is an auspicious choice that represents a meeting of land and sea. It's fucking romantic, is what it is.
When you arrive, you see that a long table has been set up for the food. Nitram-wiggler and a friend of his, a female troll with curling horns and fairy wings, are placing large seating cushions on the sand. Tinkerbull is hovering nearby, directing them on the placement from above.
"Hi, Karkat's dad!" She waves to you. Wow, friendly. A bit overly so, but not in the way that suggests she'd like to boil you into seafood stew, so you are okay with that.
You screech out a greeting and proceed to unload your delicious captchalogued haul onto the table. You proudly place Nanna Egbert/Poppop Crocker's Famous Lasagna (Famous in three universes! That is very famous!) as the centerpiece surrounded by a rainbow ring of cakes and cookies. Taking a step back to survey your handiwork, you notice that, in addition to your contributions, there is also a salad bowl and a plate of sandwiches provided by Nitram-wiggler and friend. But there are no signs of the promised brownies, how strange.
"They are for emergency purposes only," Nitram says. He's finished arranging the cushions and has come to observe the bounty. You mean to ask him what he means by that, but you're temporarily distracted by his telepathic query as to which baked good you would recommend. You are partial to the red velvet cupcakes. Nitram takes your suggestion and begins to nibble on one.
The disturbingly chipper troll - Megido, your gamesprite memories inform you - pops up from behind him. She wiggles in excitement upon seeing the feast and helps herself to a cookie. "What's for emergencies?" she asks around a mouthful.
"The, uh, brownies I brought. They're Gamzee's," he tells her.
"Ooooh, I see! I think they'll come in handy!"
You're not sure you understand.
You're not given a chance to inquire, however, as it is then that the first of the guests arrive. Pounce de Leon comes bounding down the cliff in her usual exuberant manner with Aurthour galloping not far behind her. Turning toward the waves, you spot Seahorsedad flying over from his oceanbound hive. He flies swiftly and arrives just after Aurthour has taken a seat.
Pounce, meanwhile, is busy being fussed over by Megido-wiggler, who coos at her. "Aww, you're just as cute as Nepeta said you'd be! My mom was cute too. I bet you would have been great friends.''
You wonder why you have no recollection of ever meeting her lusus, not even in the game. Clearly Megido-wiggler was part of the game! "Kreee?" you ask.
"I'm not sure if I'm comfortable with, uh, that line of questioning."
"Hmm?" She looks up at the two of you brightly, expectantly.
Nitram fidgets and you boff him in the shoulder do get him to stop dilly-dallying and just translate. "He, uh, Crabdad was wondering why you spoke about your lusus, in the past tense."
"Oh, is that all?" Megido's impossibly bright eyes glimmer as she meets yours. "My mom died horribly in a cycle of revenge instigated way before the game started! But it's okay, I threw her a really nice corpse party!"
Your throat begins to close up and you feel tears welling up at the corners of your eyes. You drop to your knees in front of Megido-wiggler, ignoring Pounce who yowled when you accidentally slammed into her tail. Pounce jumps away to tend to her injured extremity but you, Crabdad, you are focused on the tragedy before you. You shed a tear for the orphaned wiggler and gather her in your arms.
You've always felt bad for orphaned wigglers; many lusii do. There just wasn't anything you could do for them back on Alternia, and there still isn't much to be done now. You stroke her hair and coo at her. Strangely, Megido-wiggler giggles.
"What are you doing?" she asks.
"Uh, he is, trying to comfort you. Because you should feel sad about your lusus passing, and you must miss her a lot."
"Wow, that's really sweet, Crabdad! Thank you!"
"I would also recommend that you let him hug it out. If you struggle, he will cuddle you, for maybe up to four hours. Crabdad is very… persistent."
Which is a good thing, Nitram sends to you psychically. Because romance masters should be persistent, to encourage others to keep looking for the, uh, right partner. Yes, that's very true. Your sidekick knows how to placate you. You've trained him very well.
"Okay!" Megido doesn't struggle. She even hugs you back and mimics your soothing strokes. She is a very smart wiggler, unlike Karkat (and you say this with the utmost affection). Nitram psychically agrees; you can see him mentally patting himself on the back for a job well done.
You let up after a minute or so and see that, while you were preoccupied, more guests have arrived. Pounce is still fairly close, but she has been joined by Spidermom. Spidermom is small! You're very surprised to see this even though you were told. She is only slightly larger than Pounce; the two are engaged in a riveting conversation about this very subject.
It's good this way! I used to be so depressed when I was fat… Hell, back then I was soooooooo morbidly obese I couldn't fit through the door to my own hive, you know? I would never have been able to go out to parties like this.
Oh, you poor dear, Pounce exclaims. Not being able to hunt anymore?
My wiggler hunted for me, can you believe that? Simply traaaaaaaagic.
Yes, hunting your own food is the only way to go!
Leap on them from behind…
Tear out their throat, rawr!
Suck out the blooooooood~
And paint walls with it!
Oh ho! Love is in the air! You leave the ladies to their chat.
Just about everyone is here now. Biclopsdad is having simultaneous conversations with Seahorsedad and Dragonmom. Aurthour is… okay, that is something you will never unsee. Aurthour is milking himself into a teacup and you need to scrub your eyes out with sand.
Oh god… Oh god! He's offering the teacup to Tinkerbull, what sort of depraved flirtation is this?! This was never covered in your romcom education! You can't tell from this far away, but you think Tinkerbull is very disturbed by this development as well.
Suddenly, you hear shrieks and splashes coming from the sea. Everyone turns to regard the source of the commotion.
"Hi everyone! This is so exciting!"
It's Peixes, rising from the waves and shouting her greetings with a lot of arm-flailing and glubbing. She seems like a lovely if over-excitable young troll. (And this is coming from you, whose wiggler has no concept of keeping a lid on it, so that is saying something.)
Peixes is here, but where is Gl'bgolyb? Do you even want to see Gl'bgolyb? Just the name is enough to trigger your aggress or abscond response. Although aggrievances never did a lusus any good when it came to battles against the Emissary to the Horrorterrors…
You knew a whale lusus once. He flew among the clouds over the sea, but sometimes he'd roll inland on rainy days. Biggest fucker you'd ever seen. Baddest fucker, too. They say Gl'bgolyb swallowed him whole.
The young princess reaches down into the water and dramatically presents you all with… a fishbowl!
"Ta da! Mako wave, everyone, Glubby is here!"
Gl'bgolyb sits in a fishbowl, in about a gallon of water. There is colored gravel at the bottom of the bowl, and a decorative castle hideout. The Emissary to the Horrorterrors crawls out of her hideout to float in the center of the bowl. She wiggles her tentacles and says:
"It's betta this wave," Peixes says, addressing all your shocked faces. "Glubby used to have to be so careful to keep her voice down. Now she can scream and shout and sing as loud as she wants and no one gets hurt!"
Being a psychic lowblood is hard. It's hard and nobody understands. It's also unfair that having psychic powers makes you even more susceptible to psychic attacks, like why is that a thing? If the Vast Glub were ever to be released, you would be the first to perish. You would keel over before all the rustbloods, before Gl'bgolyb even finished saying "gl--".
You guess it's because your powers work by opening up metaphysical lines of communication. You can speak with beasts because you are literally open-minded to what they are saying. Of course, once you're in you can grab the reins, so to speak. You can "feel out" trolls and other highly intelligent species such as humans, maybe prod at them a bit, but they are not open-minded enough to speak with you. Unless they have psychic or psionic abilities as well, chances are they won't even feel your mental knocking. Technically, you think you could commune with - but not control - other psychic lowbloods, but you have no friends that fit the criteria and so have never tested this out. Highblood psychics, however, work by shoving their mental projections at others, like swinging a weapon around. And since you are so literally open-minded, they can raze your mindscape in no time.
In short, your psychic defense sucks shame globes. Now throw in a bunch of lusii, including mini-Gl'bgolyb, who all won't shut up. Gl'bgolyb's mini-glubs are rattling at your thinkpan and she just won't. Shut. Up.
You are Tavros Nitram, and you are currently having the beginnings of a psychic headache. It starts with an itch right behind your eyeballs, then expands to an itch all over the squishy contents of your pan. This is very annoying because you can't scratch your own brain. Aradia and Sollux get to give each other psionic scratches to relieve their headaches, but your powers are different and they would end up frying you and that is so unfair.
Vriska could do it for you, but she's a huge bitch. She wouldn't know the difference between a friendly scratch and full-out mind control, anyway. (You are still bitter about all the scratches you gave her that were never returned or were returned with kicks "to make you stronger".) Gamzee is your bro, but getting a psychic scratch with chucklevoodoos is like asking someone to get that spot on your back that you can't reach and having them come at you with knives and acid. Again: so unfair. You sullenly savage your third cupcake and resign yourself to itchy brainmeats for the rest of the night.
"Hey, Aradia, I think I need to go for a walk."
"Um, Gl'bgolyb, is what's wrong. Don't tell Feferi I said that."
"Well, okay," she says as you start off down the beach, "I hope you feel better."
You decaptchalogue half your brownies and give them to her. One never knows when lusus hunting instincts will kick in, after all. Not that Tinkerbull has ever had much in the way of hunting instincts, but you've seen more than your fair share of other lusii chasing down food for their wigglers or themselves. You're not stupid enough to think so many lusii can congregate without at least one of them going berserk.
You sigh and trudge off further down the beach. Before you know it, you're halfway to Gamzee's hive. The cliffs are a lot lower here, and they continue to taper down into gentle swelling hillsides. You stop yourself from going any further because you don't feel up to seeing Gamzee at the moment. Instead, you find a flat boulder to sit on and think about what you're going to say to him the next time you chat.
Truth is, when Crabdad popped up with his matchmaking plan, you made it look like you were roped into his schemes against your will when you're actually the evil mastermind of this game. Um, mostly. Kind of… Okay, not really. It's more like Crabdad has his goals and you have your (secret) goals in which pissing off Karkat is just incidental, and you have joined forces to wreak havoc upon the land.
The (secret) goal is actually to reunite Gamzee with Seagoatdad. Yes, it's true, you are a huge sap. Because really, even though all the Lost Weeaboos had fun being in Pupa Pan's gang, all they truly wanted was lusii to call their own. The part where they ask Wendee to be their lusus always makes you cry. Just thinking about it is making you sad! You give Tinkerbull a mental hug, not even minding that it makes your think pan itch again, because Tinkerbull is the best lusus and he deserves all the hugs. (Crabdad is a good lusus too. Karkat is a prick not to appreciate him more. You make a note to arrange more hug-bombs with Crabdad as payment for your services.)
But anyway. Here you are, looking to the sea. Seagoatdad is nowhere to be seen. You extend your powers a bit, but can't sense anything that could be him. It sucks that you spent quite a few nights helping Crabdad arrange this gathering, spreading word to all the seadwelling lusii that you came across in the hopes that it would reach Seagoatdad, and… he's not here. He's just… not here. This hollow feeling of disappointment is, you think, exactly how Gamzee feels every time he zones out in front of his hive waiting for the lusus who all but abandoned him.
Seagoatdad runs away from his problems. He has an avoidant personality, which, well, Gamzee has too. When they mess up, they pretend it isn't a thing. The problems build and stack; they run farther and farther away. So maybe Seagoatdad messed up when Gamzee was a wiggler, but all lusii are guaranteed to do something wrong when they're first figuring out this custodianship thing. Instead of fixing it, he ran away, which created more problems that he also ran away from until eventually he was away from his hive more often than not. And in the process, he taught Gamzee that it was okay to just pretend he didn't have any problems like his rage issues and to just keep pretending and pretending until they resulted in a downward spiral of murder and insanity.
As near as you can tell, Gamzee was already stressed out and nearing the breaking point when Dave sent him a music video (no one will tell you what music video this was; no one speaks of the music video at all) that pushed him over the edge. Then he finally went looking for you because you were always not-quite-pale with him and you'd told him he could come to you for emergency feelings jams if he needed to, like in case he was ever headed toward one of those highblood rages that he assured you were, and you quote, "not even a thing with me bro, c'mon look at me being the chillest motherfucker all up in this bitch".
Well, they turned out to really be a thing. And you were dead. He, uh, apparently didn't take that part very well either. You're still not clear on what went down, but you've pieced together enough to know that it was really bad and that he was making out with your corpse trying to bring you back. (Oh god that's weird.) Somewhere along the line, Serket mind control was also involved, and if you know anything, it's that Serket mind control is a bag of human bulges.
So, you kind of feel responsible for Gamzee? You just really want him to be happy and not pretend-happy. There's not much you can do for him on the pile-front because Karkat is a better moirail than you would have been. Talking to lusii is your thing, though, so that is what you do.
You steel yourself for another go. This time you push your scan farther and, just when the prickles start turning into pain, you make out Seagoatdad's shape. He's coming this way… He's coming this way!
Better late than never, right? You follow his progress without letting him know you're in his head. When he gets close enough, you begin to get some impressions of his thoughts: guilt, curiosity, excitement, fear. He slows down as he approaches the shore. He keeps himself hidden under the waves, but he's there, close enough to observe the others.
...no...don't belong...wiggler will never forgive me...
And he turns around.
...sorry...so sorry...not brave enough...
Slides back to the safety of the ocean…
"No way, human Jose!"
You push yourself off the rock and run back toward the gathering as fast as you can. Panting, gasping, tripping, almost falling, you run with the sea breeze stinging your cheeks.
You ignore Crabdad's screeches about where you've been. You skid to a stop next to Aradia, who's been toeing the waves. "Get back!" you shout to her, and then you bring your hands to your temples to better concentrate.
Seagoatdad, sensing your intrusion, tries to fight you off and swim away. You wrap your psychic will around his and pull it taut. He brays, a mournful sound, all fear-guilt-panic negative emotions that make you sick to your digestive sac. But you win, as you always do, and you make Seagoatdad rise up - Aradia gasps - and crash onto the shore.
Saltwater sprays over the lot of you. Seagoatdad is whimpering-sobbing-ashamed in your mind as you let go of him. He's too ashamed to try running away again; he settles for lowering his head and crying into the sand.
"Oh my cod!" Feferi pushes her way to the front with Glb'golyb's bowl wrapped protectively in her arms. "Why is Seagoatdad crying?!"
"KREEEEE!" Crabdad demands to know the same thing.
"Uh, sorry," you say, "he just needs a moment, to collect himself. It was, um, a very emotional journey for him."
Several of the lusii turn sympathetic glances his way, including both of Biclopsdad's heads. You can't remember ever seeing Biclopsdad's heads agree on anything, so you think this bodes well for Seagoatdad's romantic/friendship prospects. He needs to start building what the humans call a support network. Now is as good a time as any.
Aradia tiptoes over to the lusus' giant head with her half plate of brownies. "Would you like some?" she asks. "Gamzee made these."
"Yeah," you say, "He made them for you."
That's all the invitation he needs. Purple dismay fluids steadily leak out of Seagoatdad's eyes as he snaps up Aradia's half of the brownies. He looks so baleful that you quickly decaptchalogue your half and hand them over as well. One, two snaps and they're all gone.
Your arsenal of hash brownies is depleted, but you can't find it in you to complain. You don't need a "secret weapon" when you've gotten the brownies to the person they were meant for. You didn't think you would actually complete that mission, but you have, and damn does it feel good.
IDK if I'm happy with this chapter. Seagoatdad needed to come into the picture for another crack pairing I had planned, so... well, this happened. Sorry. We'll return to your regularly scheduled crack next time.
You're beginning to wonder where your sidekick has gone, but it doesn't seem as important as playing temporary auspice between Dragonmom and Pounce de Leon. Given how well their trolls got along, you thought they would take to each other right away.
They did, but violently. Pounce made a snide comment about Dragonmom being a just-hatched grub, too young to participate at an adults-only gathering such as this. Dragonmom shouted something about how her laying date was her true birthdate so she was older than everyone here, and also Pounce was a jealous fur-bitch, scales all the way. They swiped at each other with their claws until you stepped in with a "SKREEEE!" and clamped one claw in each of your pincers.
With your grasping appendages literally full, you definitely do not want to deal with Biclopsdad's neurotic dual-personalities, so of course that's exactly what you have to deal with.
"Naaaaalx?" Red Half approaches you with a red rose in his hand. He wants you to be his moirail.
Before you can say anything, Blue Half headbutts Red Half. "Soltuuuuu!" He emphatically gestures with his blue rose that Aurthour would be a much better pale partner.
Pounce and Dragonmom have taken to sulking with their backs turned toward you, so you seize the opportunity to answer Biclopsdad. You tell him you're sorry, but you'd rather not enter into a moirallegiance with someone who's only half committed to the relationship, if even that. You're pretty sure Red Half - who's cool as a platonic friend - only thought to date you because your blood is red. Blue Half is a douche. You wouldn't get within five cholerbear dens of that wad of grub discharge.
Blue Half offers his rose to Aurthour, who similarly rejects the proposition. Having been turned down twice, Red Half turns to Blue Half and they have a conference.
What about Gl'bgolyb?
What about Spidermom?
Spidermom overhears and says, Grooooooooss.
Gl'bgolyb gives a noncommittal glub, the equivalent of a horrorterror shrug. Peixes-wiggler thankfully cannot understand what her lusus is shrugging about. (The young troll is busy feeding bits of lasagna to her lusus with an extremely miniaturized culling fork.)
It's as you feared. Biclopsdad doesn't have a single romantic bone in his body. He just wants to date people who are either reddish or bluish. Not for the first time, you wonder if the two halves of Biclopsdad could use an auspice themselves.
Well, maybe after they solve the moirail issue. Anyone reddish or bluish they argue about, but anyone who's neither they have no interest in. You think Pounce might make a good moirail (once she stops sulking), but if you were to bring this up with Biclopsdad, you're reasonably sure his heads would simultaneously say, "But she's green."
You wonder if he likes purple. Red Half was okay with tyrian; Blue Half seems to think that's a little too red. You look to Seahorsedad.
Fuck no, he says. They both already tried giving me their roses and it pissed me off. I'm a sensitive romantic type! I'm not dating anyone who's only attracted to me based on color. Not even hemospectrum status, but just the color, can you imagine? Ugh!
You sigh, letting go of Pounce and Dragonmom, who've ceased struggling and are looking sheepishly at each other. Whether they decide to apologize or have hate-makeouts is up to them. As long as they don't try to kill each other in public anymore, you've done your job.
You steel yourself to confront Biclopsdad once more. What would Cakedad do? He would give Biclopsdad a stern talking-to! You've learned a lot from Cakedad, including the powers of beginning your speech with "Listen here, young man," while wagging your pincer. It's time to put these powers to use.
Biclopsdad's heads are still arguing when you stomp over. Listen here, young--
"Get back!" you hear a voice shout from the shoreline.
Oh, your sidekick has returned. Finally! Where was he when you could've used his help subduing Pounce and Dragonmom?
Oh, it's Seagoatdad.
Oh, Biclopsdad is clutching both roses to his breast. He's grinning. Very dopey. Very much in love.
You're not sure how you feel about this.
-- twinArmageddons [TA] began trolling apocalypseArisen [AA] at 2:44 --
TA: holy 2hiit ii'm 2o glad to 2ee you
AA: Hi s0llux! 0u0
TA: yeah ii'm two 2tunned riight now two comment about your dumb 2miiley wiith the proper amount of nece22ary 2nark
TA: you wiill not beliieve what my dad ju2t told me
TA: ii thiink ii need two jam about thii2
AA: Whatever it is, I'm here f0r y0u.
TA: thank2 aa
AA: But if it's about your dad dating Gamzee's dad, I already kn0w!
TA: no way
AA: I was there when they h00ked up! S0 was Feferi, actually.
TA: and you guy2 ju2t let thii2 happen? they've only been on one date and already that pandead dad of miine ii2 talkiing about human marryiing the 2eagoat of hii2 dream2
TA: liike hell ii'm goiing to let them make gz my human 2tyle 2iibliing fuck that noii2e
AA: S0rry, I wasn't thinking ab0ut h0w y0u w0uld react.
AA: F0rgive me?
TA: don't make that face
TA: fuckiing 2iiiiiiiiiigh... iit'2 ok ii'll liive
-- terminallyCapricious [TC] began trolling carcinoGeneticist [CG] at 4:20 --
TC: MoThErFuCkiNg BeSt FrIeNd! So MaNy MiRaClEs ArE hApPeNiNg...
TC: So MaNy MiRaClEs...
CG: WAIT, LET ME GUESS. THIS IS YET ANOTHER THING THAT I DON'T WANT TO KNOW, BUT THAT YOU'RE GOING TO TELL ME ANYWAY.
TC: My LuSuS cAmE hOmE aNd He'S sTaYinG fOr GoOd ThIs TiMe.
CG: OKAY, I WAS NOT EXPECTING THAT BUT IT WAS SOMETHING THAT I DEFINITELY WANTED TO KNOW. IF HE'S REALLY BACK THAT'S THE FIRST STEP TO REPAIRING YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM. I'M HAPPY FOR YOU.
TC: YeAh I kNoW iT aIn'T aLl uP tO bEiNg EaSy As PiE oR sWeEt As, BuT a BrOtHeR gOt To TaKe ThEM mIrAcLeS aS tHeY cOmE.
CG: SO WHY THE SUDDEN CHANGE OF PUMPBISCUIT FROM YOUR LUSUS?
TC: ThE oLd GoAt'S fAlLeN iN pItY, tHoUgHt He OuGhT tO uP aNd GeT hIs ReSpOnSiBiLiTy On BeFoRe He GoT tO gEtTiNg MaRrIeD.
CG: YOU MEAN MARRIED LIKE HUMAN-MARRIED WITH THE MASHING TOGETHER OF TWO HIVEHOLDS RESULTING IN TWO CUSTODIANS AND COMBINED WIGGLERS.
CG: IS THAT SUPPOSED TO BE PALE OR FLUSHED?
TC: DuNnO, mAn. MaYbE bOtH? lIKe A dOuBlE mIrAcLe...
CG: I WOULD SAY THIS IS DEPRAVED, BUT FUCK IF I KNOW WHAT LUSII DO FOR ROMANCE. MY DAD HAS ALWAYS SEEMED TO LIKE THE QUADRANT SYSTEM.
CG: HUMAN MARRIAGE IS A BIG DEAL THOUGH. IT'S GOING TO CHANGE YOUR WHOLE HIVE ARRANGEMENT. ALL THE FUCKING CHANGES, GAMZEE. THINK ABOUT IT AND SLAP SOME SENSE INTO YOUR LUSUS AFTER YOU SLAP HIM FOR ALL THE OTHER SHIT HE PUT YOU THROUGH.
TC: RiGhT oN, kArBrO. tHiNgS jUsT gEtTiNg ThEiR cHaNgE oN lIkE wHo Up AnD tOlD tHeM tO dO tHaT?
CG: HAVE I TOLD YOU RECENTLY HOW YOUR TYPING AND ATROCIOUS GRAMMAR MAKES MY EYES BLEED SO MUCH THEY FLOOD THEIR OWN SOCKETS. GET TO THE POINT. I KNOW YOU HAVE OTHER POINTS.
TC: SoLbRo Is GeTtInG oN tO bEiNg My ReAl BrO.
TC: HoNk hOnK :o)
CG: OH GOD NO.
CG: GAMZEE, YOU HAVE NO IDEA HOW FUCKING TERRIFIED I AM.
CG: THAT IS A HORRIBLE IDEA. YOUR LUSUS IS AN IRRESPONSIBLE PUPA WHO NEEDS TO GROW THE FUCK UP BEFORE HE EVEN THINKS ABOUT ATTEMPTING ANYTHING REMOTELY RESEMBLING ADULT RESPONSIBILITY. I MEAN LOOK HOW BADLY HE FUCKED UP WITH YOU, AND NOW HE WANTS TO FUCK UP SOLLUX TOO?
CG: I REPEAT: THIS IS A HORRIBLE FUCKING IDEA. YOU TWO BULGESORES BETTER CONVINCE THEM TO SLOW THE FUCK DOWN. WHIRLWIND RELATIONSHIPS LIKE THIS NEVER LAST. THERE WILL ONLY BE PAIN FOR ALL INVOLVED.
TC: BuT sOlBrO's DaD wIlL bE mY dAd ToO. tHaT's MoRe ThAn I eVeR tHoUgHt I'd HaVe.
CG: BICLOPSDAD IS LITERALLY PANDAMAGED!!!!! SOLLUX TAKES CARE OF HIS DAD MORE THAN THE OTHER WAY AROUND!!!!!!!!!!!!!
CG: SO HELP ME IF YOU THINK THAT CARING FOR A DISABLED LUSUS IS AN IMPROVEMENT, I WILL TAKE ALL THOSE SHOUT POLES AND RAM THEM DOWN YOUR FUCKING SQUAWK GAPER.
TC: ChIlLaX, kArBrO. mE aNd SoLbRo WiLl WoRk ThInGs OuT.
CG: YOU'D FUCKING BETTER. I DON'T WANT TO HAVE TO STICK MY SNIFFNODE INTO CUSTODIAN RELATIONSHIPS, BUT IF I FIND OUT WHOSE BRIGHT IDEA IT WAS TO HOOK THOSE WALKING DISASTERS TOGETHER, I WILL YELL UNTIL THEIR AURICULAR SPONGE CLOTS MELT AND DRIBBLE OUT OF THEIR HEAD.
CG: SAME GOES FOR ANYONE WHO ENABLED THEM IN ANY WAY.
CG: ANY. WAY.
TC: ShOoSh, MoThErFuCkEr, ShOoOoOoSh.
CG: I DON'T NEED TO BE SHOOSHED. I AM THE VERY MODEL OF CALM AND CONTROLLED. FUCK ANYONE WHO SAYS OTHERWISE.
TC: ShOoOsH sHoOoOoOoOoOoSh
CG: BLUH. I'M OKAY NOW. FOR REAL THIS TIME.
TC: By ThE wAy, TaVbRo SaYs Hi. We'Re ChIlLiNg At My PlAcE tHiS cYcLe.
CG: TELL HIM I SAID 'FUCK YOU'.
TC: He SaYs YoU cAn'T tOuCh ThIs, ThIs BeInG hIm.
TC: MaN, yOu MoThErFuCkErS aRe sO CuTe AlL fLiRtInG pItCh-LiKe.
CG: LOOK WHAT YOU FUCKING DID, GAMZEE. YOU MADE MY WRATHOMETER EXPLODE TO THE HIGH HEAVENS UNTIL THERE WAS NOTHING I COULD DO TO CONTAIN MY RAGE GLAND EXCRETIONS OTHER THAN TO KEYSMASH.
CG: THERE IS NO FLIRTING GOING ON BETWEEN ME AND FUCKING PUPA PAN. MY HATRED IS SO PLATONIC THAT TROLL PLATO WOULD BE HOLDING IT UP AS HIS IDEAL.
TC: HaHa, If YoU sAy So.
TC: It'S sTiLl MoThErFuCkiNg AdOrAbLe.
CG: ADORABLOODTHIRSTY, GET IT STRAIGHT.
CG: ALSO TELL THAT NOOKSNIFFER THAT MY PLATONIC REVENGE WILL BE SO SWIFT AND DEADLY THAT NOT ONLY WILL I BE ABLE TO 'TOUCH THIS', HE'LL NEVER SEE IT COMING.
CG: TOUCH IT PLATONICALLY, LIKE ON THE SHOULDER.
TC: If YoU sAy So.
TC: BuT mAn, AiN't ThAt JuSt AnOtHeR mIrAcLe. My TwO mAiN mOtHeRfUcKeRs, TwO bEsT iNvErTeBrOtHeRs As EvEr ThErE wAs, GeTtInG aLoNg LiKe ThAt...
CG: I DON'T KNOW WHAT UNIVERSE YOU LIVE IN WHERE WE CAN BE CONSTRUED AS 'GETTING ALONG'.
TC: MaYbE mAkInG oUt A lItTlE...
-- carcinoGeneticist [CG] is offline --
You are Karkat Vantas and your revenge will be swift, deadly, and utterly platonic. There is also nothing going on between you and Tavros, romance-wise, except maybe a potential future quadrant-corner-hood if Gamzee finally lands his flush crush. That is assuming that you don’t kill your useless moirail before then. You really don’t know why you took him back in the first place, the shitty-ass ass-clown.
To reiterate, Tavros isn’t even all that hateful. Up until some time ago, you would have ranked him up there in the “least hateful hatefriends” category among the likes of Kanaya and Nepeta and… no, that’s about it. Maybe Feferi will take his spot once she learns how to not be so unintentionally patronizing all the fucking time.
See? Tavros is still tied in third place of least hateful hatefriends despite his recent antagonism, and despite the fact that the sight of his giant fucking impractical horns has always made you want to chop them off so he can finally fit through doors properly. And also so he’d finally know what it was like to be nubby because the bastard was gifted with a magnificent coat-hanger of a rack and he still has no self-esteem. Fuck that. You’ll fucking well give him a reason to feel small!
…Gamzee had better not be writing fanfiction about you two or you swear that clown will get an entire Behemoth leaving’s worth of liquid rage poured straight into his hearducts.
But anyway, you have a potential catastrophe on your hands, and it has nothing to do with Tavros. Or, well, it doesn’t have much to do with Tavros. It’s mostly Crabdad’s fault, and you are going to have words with your lusus. His matchmaking is horrendous. It’s up to you to schoolfeed him in the art of proper romance.
You start by stomping down the stairs.
“Dad,” you’re going to say, “you’ve made a huge mistake.”
Karkat! he says, pre-empting you, I’ve made a huge mistake!”
Hmph. You suppose you can forgive him for stealing your thunder since you’re both on the same page. Now you are free to proceed to part two of your plan, which is to chaperone the hell out of Gamzee and Sollux’s dads and—
—break them up.
Biclops is a natural two-timer, and fickle, too.
Yeah, that’s a bad thing! He needs to calm his two-toned ass down!
If we hook him up with someone else and set it up so Seagoatdad finds them cheating, it’ll be just like “In Which a Charming Rogue A.I. Sabotages Her Master’s Unhealthy Romances, Etc.”
You snap out of it. Really, it’s not like you to keep silent for so long. “Absolutely not, dad! That was a masterpiece of troll cinema, but the characters in that story were sane and intelligent. We are dealing with crazy-stupid. It has to be more like the plot from Due to a Series of Mishaps Instigated by Overprotective Clade Members, a Pair of Idiot Matesprits are Bulgeblocked Until They Learn Responsibility, Etc.”
Yes, yes! Yes! Why did I forget about that film? You are so smart, my wiggler! Oh, but who will play the part of Chorix, Chief Bulgeblocker?
At this, you smirk. “Well, normally I’d say you, but they’d catch on too quickly that way. Dumb as they are, they’d still know you were there to meddle. There is only one person with the respect and social acumen fit for this job…"
Gasp! Are you sure it must be him?
You nod. “Yes, it has to be Tinkerbull.”
Suck it, Nitram. Buuuuurn.
While you were still riding high on the success of your mission, Crabdad went home feeling numbly horrified. Now that you are back in your hive sitting quietly with Tinkerbull across from you and a pot of fresh leaf juice in between, it finally dawns on you that "numbly horrified" was the dominant emotion of a good portion of most everyone who had been gathered, along with undertones of shock, dismay, and incredulity. And garnished with a sprig of schadenfreude, though that was mostly just Spidermom.
You sip the leaf juice - a gift from Nepeta for your last hatchday - and then peer over the cup. "The mission's not over, is it?"
Tinkerbull moos softly in agreement before tiredly returning to lap his share of the leaf juice from a skull-patterned saucer - a gift from Aradia last "Ghoul's Day Out". Meaning the last time she and Rose raided Hot Topic. It's apparently become a gift-giving holiday. You also think they are in cahoots to goth up your hive and eventually your person, one gift-giving holiday at a time.
"There's going to be, uh, a lot of work keeping Goatdad here, huh? And, probably, dealing with his new relationship."
"...But I still did good, right? I mean, it was a good thing, to bring Gamzee's dad back home."
You're so lucky to have such a supportive, understanding dad. It'll be all right, you tell yourself. You take another sip of leaf juice.
"...I hope Gamzee's not, um, writing fanfic, about me and Karkat. He's a much better rapper, than a writer."
TC: HeY sIs, I bEeN pRaCtIcInG gEtTiNg My WrItE oN lIkE yOu SaId…
TC: I wRoTe AnOtHeR fAnFiC! It’S a RoMaNcE, aNd ThIs TiMe AiN’t NoBoDy EvEn DiEd HoRrIbLy!
TT: While that description is not reassuring in the slightest, I did promise I would help with your writing. Therefore, I invite you to, as they say, “do your troll worst”.
-- TC sent file SoMoThErFuCkInGcUtE.doc –-
TT: Gamzee, are you trying to tell me that Karkat and Tavros are pitch now?
TC: WhAt No
TC: ThIs HeRe’S fIc FoR tHaT mOvIe AbOuT tHeM mEaN gIrLs
TT: I see. Hmm.
TC: So HoW wAs It?
TT: I suppose the only way to describe it is, and I quote, “so motherfucking cute”.
TC: HeLl YeAh, SiS. ThAt’S wHaT i’M aLl AbOuT. No MoRe MuRdEr, OnLy SwEeTnEsS.
It’s never easy, being a father. Oh sure, maybe you’re “lucky” in more ways than most. Your son was hatched with an even temperament, and he’s always been about as morally decent as a troll can be. They are a species characterized by murderous predatory urges, after all. “You don’t understand the struggle!” other custodians say when you get together, as if you’ve really had it that much easier just because you’ve never* had to help your wiggler hide any bodies.
(*Troll logic says it doesn’t count if the bodies weren’t intentionally murdered. It was only once, but you had to direct Tavros, stunned and squeamish at the sight of all that bloody pulp, to chuck the bodies of the would-be marauders into the sea and pretend the sharks got ‘em. It was the sweep before he began FLARPing, when the live-action game of choice was Zombie Hive Defense. Prior to the zombie team’s approach, Tavros booby-trapped the hive perimeter with Fiduspawn, but ran low on host plushies…)
But that’s not luck, you think. That’s just you having been smart when choosing a grub, and you having tried your best to teach him not to be stupid from then on. Perhaps murderous predatory urges wouldn’t be as big of a problem if more lusii gave their charges the “it’s bad manners to be the first to attempt murder” talk.
Somehow, you don’t think they really understand The Struggle.
That is, the struggle of raising a son who was already twice your weight upon hatching. Do they know how hard it is, not being able to carry their chosen grub from the caverns? To have to flutter alongside a fresh-hatched grub as it crawls across the dangerous terrain of Alternia, seeking a place to call hive?
Of course you think you made the right choice in Tavros. He warmed up to you right away, was a good-sized grub with plenty of stamina, and with his innate sense of adventure had no problem being told he would have to scuttle on his own. You just weren’t expecting him to inch his way to the damned ocean!
Elder fairy bovines of your previous herd had said a troll grub’s hive-finding was a sacred ritual, not to be interrupted by their lusus, though of course a large-enough lusus may carry their grub to suggested locations. For a fairybull like yourself, the only option was to hover nearby and warn the grub of approaching dangers.
Too many times, one or the other of you – or even both of you – had nearly become snacks on your pilgrimage. You built tiny caverns of twigs and vegetation to hide in by day, and moved stealthily at night. Tavros was smart enough to avoid highblood territories without your prompting. Curiously, he avoided lowblood settlements, too, though at times he had seemed torn. He would look in the direction of the settlement, then glance at you, and choose a different path. He was too young to speak then, and could only share his thoughts through weak psychic communion. When asked, he said, “big lusii eat dad”.
What a perfect son! Or so you thought in that moment. Or so you thought until you passed by many, many uninhabited plains and forests which were all perfectly fine to you, but all snubbed by Tavros on his never-ending quest. At times it seemed he was more interested in exploring the world than finding a hive, like he wanted to see every possibility, complete all the sidequests before settling down.
Well, he found the ocean and couldn’t cross it. Oh, he squeaked at it in indignation, and even tried swimming for a bit. That was the first time you had the passing thought that your son was possibly stubborn to the point of insanity.
You’re not a fish, you told him.
He pouted, glaring across the water. You thought he was looking around for a raft, or a fish to commune with. This had to be stopped.
“MOO!” Son, you find a place *on land* and call the drones right the fuck now, you hear me? You’re about to pupate, and I swear if we don’t have a hive around your ass by then and I have to keep watch for predators over your fucking cocoon for an entire season… I swear, if I have to do that, you will be grounded until ascension!
Tavros wibbled, tears in his eyes from his first scolding, but he backed away from the water.
Of course, after that he had to climb a damn cliff before he was satisfied enough to release the drone pheromones.
It only became harder to control him, the larger he got. He didn’t make much trouble most of the time, but once in a while he would get some idea in his mind, and there would be nothing you could do to stop him except pile on the Fatherly Guilt.
It’s not like you had the strength to physically throw out his FLARPing manual. (Are you seriously going to play another live-action murder game, son? I’m not helping you hide any more bodies.) Heck, you couldn’t even kill the Sgrub game grub. (Are you seriously going to play another game with the girl who crippled you, son? Really?)
As a parent, you’re naturally biased in favor of your son. You think he’s smarter than the average troll. He’s only stupid when it comes to his terrible gaming addiction! The… same terrible gaming addiction that has controlled his entire life thus far… Damn. Okay, if you must be honest, your son’s actually not that smart half the time. The gaming half of the time.
It’s hard being unable to physically stop your son from getting into something stupid. It’s hard and
no one only Dragonmom understands.
“Dad is, um, going to be away for a while,” Nitram wiggler says. “He’s taking a break, I guess, from the stupid.”
“KREEEE?” What’s that supposed to mean?
“Yeah, what’s that supposed to mean?” Karkat asks, belligerently crossing his arms. You pry them back down to his sides because you are guests at another troll’s hive, and Karkat really should be old enough not to take up strifing stances against someone without issuing a challenge to strife.
“Uh, that he’s fed up with everyone’s level of stupid? Not me in particular, or anything, at least not this time… But he said, my uh, involvement with the matchmaking, was giving him trauma flashbacks to, um, my FLARPing days. And my Zombie Hive Defense days. We talked, over leaf juice. I agreed it would, probably, be best if he weren’t around to, ah, witness any further stupid. At least for a few nights, anyway.”
“Oh, it’s nothing personal against you, either. Just, uh, the general stupid that went down last time, of which you are most likely here to talk about, with me. Dad said, he has reached his limit, and now has a low tolerance for bullshit. Um, pun intended. And it is the most general, of general knowledge, that this situation we have here, reeks very strongly, of bullshit.”
Karkat grumbles. “Just our fucking luck. Guess there’s nothing to be done about that.”
You are in agreement. Things would have been so much easier if you’d been able to enact Plan A with Tinkerbull. Where the hell is he, anyway?
“Hanging with Dragonmom, I think? I think… they both have a complex? About me and Terezi having to, um, scuttle on our own from the caverns to our hives.”
It takes a while for his words to sink in, for the implications to sink in. You’d never given that any thought before, how tiny or immobile lusii couldn’t carry their grubs to safety. Perhaps you had assumed the drones would have been given permission to help carry them partway, as is done with the heiress to the ocean, but then… why would it? Alternia never cared for anyone’s weaknesses.
You erupt into shrieks and flails at the images of tiny Nitram-grub running away from predators as fast as his squishy grub body could go, with no strong lusus to fight on his behalf… And tiny Pyrope-grub scrounging for scraps of food as she wandered the forests, guided only by her mother’s psychic voice… How often had they gone to sleep cold and hungry?
Before you’re even aware of it, you’ve hug-bombed both wigglers in the vicinity, one claw for each. Karkat screams. You think your slightly-evil sidekick smirks into your chitinous plates at that, so to discourage any blossoming rivalry for your affections, you smash them closer together.
You make a mental note to also hug Pyrope-wiggler the first chance you get.
Terezi will be the first to admit that the specter of death lent extra spice to FLARP campaigns. After all, it’s not like regular RPGs didn’t exist in Alternia. It’s not like she didn’t play her fair share of nonlethal games too. Sometimes, though, murder was fun, and escaping from murder attempts was even more fun.
If you could thrive in FLARP, you could thrive in the Fleet. It was good practice for adulthood, and half the reason anyone played.
But now the Fleet is gone, the Imperial Army nothing but a footnote in rewritten history, and murder in the new world is seen as a Very Bad Thing. What’s a FLARPer to do?
Why, gather her party for human-style LARPing, of course!
All the weapons were foam-tipped, and participants had to be at least sixteen human years old to handle said foam-tipped weapons. That was insanity from an Alternian point of view, akin to swaddling a grub in a million layers of protective gear, force fields, and automated hive defense systems included. Nobody who grew up that sheltered, with a lusus that nuts, could kill worth a damn. But that’s why it was perfect! Because Terezi knew Vriska better than anyone, and Terezi knew Vriska needed foam-tipped weapons in order to feel safe.
See, that was the deal with Vriska’s 8-ball obsession and vision eightfold. She was always fussing over future possibilities; always making sure she survived. Always attacking preemptively, because deep down she was afraid. Vriska had lived, as many trolls did, by the creed that your enemies couldn’t kill you if you killed them first. Kill first, always. Strike fast and hard, because the death of an innocent is no big deal, but an enemy left alive due to misplaced mercy could mean your own demise.
The strategy was deeply flawed. All of Vriska’s enemies had been self-created because she struck first, but Vriska was very much a feelings type of person no matter how much she pretended to be cool and calculating. (Feelings, eurgh, thought Terezi, who prized mental fortitude above all.)
When emotions ran high, she couldn’t see things rationally anymore.
Unlike Terezi, whose various incarnations never differed all that much, in a world like Earth, like Beforus, Vriska would have been like Aranea, the most cautious of them all. So foam-tipped weapons it was. Relations are strained between Vriska and… everyone, but Terezi remains sure they can all get through this together. Sisterhood is a lifelong bond.
“Let’s make a guild,” Terezi said after seeing the human LARP fest advertisement. She slobbered over her screen to read it, then printed out a copy and slobbered over that one, too.
Vriska tried to play it cool. She shrugged and said, “Fine. I get to be a pirate, though.”
“It’s an old-timey human fantasy setting. And the venue is like in the middle of Canada, the farthest you can be from an ocean without being in a desert.”
“There are lakes,” Vriska replied, refusing to back down. “I can be a freshwater pirate.”
Terezi then trekked to Nepeta’s hive, where her cat-like friend was reading Zoobooks with Equius. She handed a fresh copy of the ad to Nepeta with a “Let’s LARP”, and before Equius could complain, shoved a slobber-copy in his face and said, “Everything’s foam-tipped. You’re coming along, too.”
Equius had a hard time resisting direct commands, even if they came from people lower than him on the hemospectrum (or sometimes because of that, because he had a lot of power fetishes), not that any of that mattered anymore. Everything was foam, all was good.
With the meowrails on board, step three was Aradia, because while she was super fun to play with, there needed to be a buffer between her and Vriska lest they kill each other again. Too many alpha bitches spoils the RP.
Buffer in place, Terezi approached Aradia’s newly remodeled hive with the delicious red door. She gave the door a good lick. The psychic ward crackled a bit on her tongue. Ooh, tingles! Like human pop rocks.
Before she could knock, Aradia called out from within, “Rezi, is that you?”
“Your door is delicious,” Terezi said with another long swipe.
It opened. “Hi! Glad you think so!” Aradia said. “Though I wouldn’t recommend licking it too much. Paint’s not edible like chalk is.”
“I thought you were going to tell me your ward is made of ghosts and I shouldn’t ingest their spectral remains.”
“Ah. That too.” Aradia beamed, gleaming flat-tipped white teeth smelling like vanilla mint.
There was a pause as Terezi warred with herself. She leaned in for one last lick before entering the hive.
Then out came the fliers again, as soon as they were seated. “Human LARP, foam weapons, we’re making a guild. You in?”
“Who else is coming?”
“Well, we need at least ten players to apply for guild status, so… everyone? I’m sure the old FLARP crew will all join – we can be the guild officers due to experience, and the meowrails are in too.”
Aradia could read in between the lines. She was shrewd like that.
“I see!” she said, which meant many things at once. Among the various meanings, one was ‘I am aware of your plot to re-integrate Vriska with the rest of our cohort (and also aware that you’re aware that I’m aware), and while I’m not a fan, I’m not opposed to it because I trust you to keep her in line. Don’t break my trust in you.’ Another was ‘Yay, let’s dress like silly medieval humans and boff each other with foam swords!’
“We’ll need costumes,” Aradia continued. “Kanaya’s hive is a bit far, so perhaps I should fly over to pay her a visit. I have lots of leftover cakes that I was going to share with her anyway, since she didn’t come to the lusus get-together.”
Terezi gasped dramatically. “Was there… red velvet cake?”
“Yes! Cakedad made them!” Aradia swept into her nutrition block to find said cupcakes.
“Mmm, I don’t know his name. It’s what Tavros told me Crabdad calls John’s lusus.” Then, whispering conspiratorially she said, “John hates red velvet the most! He says it’s a made-up flavor that doesn’t taste like anything!”
Taking the offered cake-bribes, Terezi shoved two in her shark-toothed maw like a nutbeast stuffing its cheek pouches. “Reb iff iss ohhn fwwayber,” she said. Red is its own flavor. Like John’s tears. Those, too, are their own flavor.
Swallowing, she heaved a satisfied sigh and continued. “I’m going to human-marry John’s lusus.”
Aradia had begun packing the rest of the cakes for her trip to Kanaya’s. “Speaking of unexpected romances,” she said, “Tavros has been pretty busy being in cahoots with Crabdad. He hasn’t been answering his messages for a while, so would you mind inviting him in person?”
“Sure,” Terezi said. Tavros was almost always up for a gaming session, whatever game it might be. It was no great difficulty to invite him to play, especially given that Aradia had the harder job of recruiting Kanaya.
Aradia flew off, and Terezi once again found herself on the road.
At Tavros’ hive, she knocked. There was no response at first. Perhaps he wasn’t home? No… listening closer, she could hear muffled speech from more than one person. She knocked again.
“W-who is it?” came Tavros’ voice.
“Yo!” Terezi called out. “It’s me! Let’s human-LARP!”
“Uh, um, the door’s open…?”
“Mmm-gmm nnnghh NNMFF NNO YOU IDIOT DON’T LET HER IN!”
That voice was unmistakable. It was Karkat, moaning suspiciously in Tavros’ hive… Were they… having an illicit affair?
Oh, and Crabdad too. Hmm. How strange.
Terezi opened the door to encounter Crabdad, with Tavros and Karkat clutched to his thorax one pincer each, lumbering toward her.
“RUN, TEREZI! SAVE YOURSELF! GET THE FUCK OUT OF HERE BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE!”
Crabdad maneuvered Karkat into the other pincer's hold, smashing his son closer to Tavros. As Terezi stood transfixed at this scene, he reached out, lightning quick, to snatch her into the triple hug-bomb.
In a fashionable neighborhood of a coastal town, on a forested hilltop a mile or so away from the water’s edge but still high enough to advertise its locale as ‘overlooking the sea’, there stood a restaurant. It was a nice place, but not fancy enough to call itself a fine dining establishment without getting a few side-eyes from food critics. It was popular, but secluded enough that business couldn’t be said to be booming. The patrons were a good mix of troll and human, reflecting the mix of mostly-troll chefs and mostly-human waitstaff, and the cuisine served was simply stated to be Alternian fusion.
Its interior was moderately lit – dimmed to appropriate romantic levels, but not so much that patrons would grow suspicious of the food’s appearance. The hanging lamps were quite whimsical, with abstract combinations of curves, angles, and wispy swirls of color popping here and there from a neutral background of wood and parchment. There were arches, too, of woven branches with small fairy lights wound around them. These same fairy lights fell in twinkling starlight curtains and twined artistically around the fixtures of the outdoor seating area, which on this chilly autumn night was empty with the exception of one table.
Two ladies sat chatting amiably at said table, enjoying their complimentary human-wheatloaf basket and first glasses of wine. They were on a date.
“This is interesting,” said the first. She licked awkwardly at her painted lips, hoping no lipstick had gotten on her teeth, and tugged on her dress. “I’ve never cared much for my own appearance before, so I hope you don’t mind that I’m no good at this. My daughter dressed me as best as she could, but she’s not very experienced either.”
“I can definitely see her influence in your outfit,” said the second. “The cat pattern. It’s cute!”
The dress was, indeed, cat-patterned.
“Oh, thank you! And I love your boots, too!”
“Ah, I must confess that my daughter likewise dressed me,” said the second lady. “Say what you will about her greasy garage band punk vibe – and oh how I wish she would grow out of that phase – but Vriska has great taste in shoes.”
All four pairs of boots were, indeed, of the season’s latest trends.
The two ladies hummed agreeably as their waiter approached with appetizers.
While this conversation was taking place, Sankaz Arbora, the lone troll waiter of this almost-fine dining establishment, had been hovering in the background. His posture alternated from stiff (when he remembered he was on duty) to drooping (his natural state of being). His eyes and mouth were droopy with resignation. Hell, all of him was droopy, including the horns that hung over his face like a bad emo haircut that he could never get rid of even though he had quit his emo phase for over three sweeps.
Sankaz would much rather not have been chosen to wait on this table. He would rather get back to bartending, which was his main position, a hard-won battle after the previous main bartender retired. (Take that, day-shift Rachel!) Really, he was only supposed to wait tables when everyone else was busy, which wasn’t the case at the moment.
However, they’d never had patrons like these. Like lusii. The trolls all knew basic English, and the humans all knew basic Alternian, or at least enough restaurant words to get by… But unfortunately none of the troll staff were psychic in any way that would have helped, and humans are, as a rule, all psy-null.
When the two lusii walked in, the human staff had looked at them silently. A beat later, as one, their gazes shifted to the bar. Sankaz was chosen by default for his habit of taking his dad to work in his breast pocket. He had said, “What?” then “Oh,” and sighed deeply as he noticed who had just strolled in. There had been an awkward pause as all the customers had also noticed the giant cat and spider among them. Then, Sankaz tapped his breast pocket. Snekdad’s tiny head popped out, tongue delicately flicking out to taste the air.
What? Flick, flick. Taste. Oh.
Currently, they – Sankaz and dad – were hovering with a plate of appetizers.
Now’s a good time, Snekdad whispered. Their conversation’s dying down.
Sankaz stiffened up to deliver said appetizers to the lusii. “Alternian spring rolls and the onion blossom, grub sauce on the side?”
Hiss hiss, growl growl, hiss, meow, they said. They’re good for now, Snekdad translated.
“Enjoy your appetizers. I’ll be back shortly with the main course,” Sankaz said. Slight bow, backwards scooch, stride stride stride, push into the kitchen aaaand… slump. “Ugh. This is going to be our future, dad. I can just feel it. Goodbye, my precious bar.”
Maybe not? It could be a one-time thing. I’ve never seen lusii go into restaurants by themselves before.
“You don’t have to lie just to make me feel better, dad. Everyone knows lusii are terrible gossips. Dining out troll-free will be all the rage by next perigee, you’ll see.”
Cirret, one of the line cooks, looked up from the saucepan she was stirring. “Does that mean we should all bring our lusii too?”
Night-shift Rachel paused on her way out, platter of three Hive-style Salmon Specials held aloft in one hand. “Can I bring my dog?”
Sigh. Slump. He and dad would probably get put in charge of training the new lusii waiters. And maybe a dog waiter, who the fuck knows. He could already see day-shift Rachel’s gloating face.
Many miles to the south, where the warm sea breezes blow, there was a beach resort. It was a bit too cool for swimming this time of year, but plenty of off-season tourists still liked to play at the water’s edge. No humans were out at this time of night. No, they were gathered in restaurants and dance clubs. Plenty of trolls joined them as well, leaving the beach rather quiet.
A troll couple strolled past, grasping appendage in grasping appendage, bare walk struts leaving clawed indents in the wet sand. The moon above them hung full and low.
Another couple of sorts reclined on beach chairs a bit further from the waves, surveying this scene.
Or, more accurately, one reclined on a facsimile of a beach chair created from four extra large towels and an entire cabana’s worth of pillows and wicker furniture arranged as arm and back rests. The other reclined on a toy beach chair borrowed from the resort manager’s daughter’s Barbie Beach Picnic set. It was blue with a pineapple printed on the back. There was a pink umbrella attached, and it also came with doll-sized pink heart sunglasses.
Tinkerbull was rocking those sunglasses. He sipped his strawberry daiquiri from a shot glass, which for him was a pitcher. On the cabana fort-chair, Dragonmom sipped her daiquiri from a pitcher, which for her was a shot glass.
“Wanna get hitched?” asked Tinkerbull, voice slurring.
Sip. Slurp. Pause.
“I dunno,” Dragonmom said. She wrapped her long tongue around the tiny cocktail umbrella, delicately licking away the last bits of sticky red syrup. “Wouldn’t that just play into Crabdad’s plans? I thought you wanted to get away from the stupid.”
“Yeah, but we’ll have to return to the stupid sooner or later. He won’t try to get us involved in more stupid if we’re already paired up.” Here, Tinkerbull hiccuped, beginning to sway even as he was seated, and even as his shot glass was only half empty. He moo-giggled. “Allllso, I want a swank as fuck wedding. Huge cake, diamonds everywhere.”
“Yes. Diamonds eeeeeverywhere!”
“Even on the cake?”
“Especially on the cake! And on Elvis, who will be presiding over the ceremony as is human tradition.”
“Sure,” said Dragonmom, her dragon-shrug tipping over the wicker couch-turned-arm rest. “I want matching tuxes.”
“Nah. Terezi loves pants. I want to see what the fuss is all about.”
Hour three into your triple hug bomb sees all four of you sitting on the couch, the wigglers draped across you still ensconced within the loving embrace of your dadly claws. Your claws have loosened their hold. The wigglers have learned that you will only tighten up if they struggle, and by this you mean Karkat has finally learned for perhaps the hundredth time in his life, but he will forget again by the next time you hug him.
The humans say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different results. You worry about Karkat. He should really know better by now, though you suppose he feels he must give a token struggle each time to keep up the facade.
Terezi is colder and her personality a bit more cool as well. She’s not as good a hugger as Tavros or Aradia, but her pointy waifish frame makes you want to stuff her with grubloaf. She is sharp in all the senses of the word. It only took her one curious half-hearted struggle before her analytical mind came to the conclusion that she should let the hug run its natural course.
Tavros likes hugs. You are satisfied that he has helped you get more opportunities for hugs.
It’s late into the night now, past midnight. Very soon you’ll have to let up for lunch and pee breaks. The wigglers had somehow managed to wrangle their limbs around snacks and portable game consoles. Tavros and Terezi have been battling and trading Pokemon, which you have been told are non-murderbirth human Fiduspawn, for pretty much the entire time.
Karkat struggled himself to sleep within the first hour, woke up, shoveled grubcorn into his mouth, and promptly fell asleep again. He seems to still have insomnia from staying up all day chatting with diurnal humans.
You churr into Terezi’s hair, nudging her to eat more snacks.
“Crabdad says, um, you’re too skinny and you should eat more,” Tavros helpfully translates.
“Don’t worry, Crabdad, I eat plenty,” Terezi says. “Can’t help it if a fast metabolism was part of my genetic slurry.”
You nuzzle them in understanding before turning your gaze back to the little flashing screens of primitive human technology.
“Hey, did you guys know about Karkat’s Pokemon team?” Terezi asks.
“Um, no? I wasn’t aware he, uh, played?”
“Oh yeah, he totally plays. And he sucks. Last time we battled, his team was three Krabbys and three Scythers.”
The words don’t mean anything to you, but Nitram wiggler bursts out laughing. Then, sensing your confusion, he psychically sends you images of the Pokemon in question.
“HOLY SHIT WHAT THE FUCK, DAD?!” Your PRECIOUS SON bolts up from his nap.
You are SO HAPPY YOUR WIGGLER LOVES YOU. The other two wigglers slide off the couch as yOU LIFT YOUR PRECIOUS GRUBLING INTO YOUR ARMS AND SWING HIM AROUND. YOU ARE SO HAPPY YOU ARE SPINNING IN CIRCLES.
LOVE YOU LOVE YOU LOVE YOU