Chapter 1: Perigean Tide
Perigean Tide — The tide that occurs when the moon is at its closest point to the earth during its orbit. These tides are higher than normal.
Your name is Dave Strider, and you aren’t going to die. You aren’t, no matter how much it feels like a half-starved, claustrophobic chipmunk with knives for teeth is gnawing on the inside of your stomach in a two for one lunch/escape attempt. You’re used to this, as much as anyone can be. Sweat pours off you like a cold drink in a hot shower and your wrists and neck burn where the metal touches it.
You are not going to die here. Bro is too careful for that. You don’t deserve death, rest, and besides, he wouldn’t risk the bait, live bait is always the best, why eat a burger when you could gore the entire cow with your teeth, get the blood on your face and your claws, and though you are sick and shivering in the middle of the fucking woods two hours before the full moon rises, dirt and blood in your mouth, tied up in silver cuffs and trying not to make any humiliating noises, you know better than to hope for an end to it. It’s not the first time, and it will not be the last.
Earlier that day he’d checked the two of you out of the shitty motel the two of you had been staying in and passed you the plant to chew raw. Down the hatch, lil’ man , he’d said and you complied. It’s bitter, always is, but you prefer the clamminess and the palpitations to the transformation and beating you know will come later if you don’t choke it down now. Then, the two of you do what you always do the night of the full moon: drive to whichever forest or desert or dump he has decided on this month, tie you up in case you can’t hold the transformation back, and dump you somewhere upwind, somewhere out in the open.
It’s this time of the month that it’s impossible to forget the fact that you’re a monster. You’re not sure if Bro makes it worse or better, but at the very least he makes you useful. The person you once were was gone, but Bro will make sure you take as many beasts down with you as you can.
It’s no good to show weakness, even while playing bait, but if you’re too quiet you’ll be accused of hiding, fraternizing with the enemy and that hurts just as bad. In the end, you don’t have to play much of anything. Silver is nothing more than a mild irritant most days, but this close to the full moon it fucking burns like bleach on roadburn and it’s all you can do to keep from howling.
As the sun begins to set, (you aren’t changing, not yet, not at all if you can help it, the cuffs slide off of your wolf form but not the collar and the wolfsbane poisoning hurts ten times more) the sweating picks up. You can’t smell Bro, you never can, he knows how to mask that shit, there’d be no point otherwise, and anything that catches his sweaty, bloody, half-teenager half something else scent is going to be downwind so you just twitch defenseless and half blind and watch the shadows change as the sun sets, slowly, slowly, slowly-
You hear a branch crack and still. Bro does not step on branches unless he’s in the trees, and even then they are never branches that break. He is silent to human ears, to wolf ears even, though you’re drugged up but he’s never been caught before has he and the pain is making your mind drift. You can hear breathing and careful steps, (not careful enough), and the sweaty animal-human smell as the monster who is not you falls for the bait, hook line and sinker, and comes over to investigate.
This is the part you like the least. (You don’t like any of this, not at all.) You curl up, small, and there’s a part of you that wants this to be a real rescue, even though you’re fine, you’re cool, you’re in on it, it’s nothing but moon sickness and a stomach cramp, and there’s a part of you that feels like you should be proud, that you’re doing good, and then there’s the part of you that wants to warn whoever has fallen for the good old teenager tied up in the middle of the forest trap like a chump, tell them to run fucking run.
You just curl up tighter.
“Karkat, we have to go . It’s almost moonrise we don’t have time for this.”
“Shut your food hole, Kankri,” another voice hisses. “Don’t you smell that?”
Two of them. Not much older than you are, from the sound of it. As if on cue, pain lances through your stomach and you are forced to let out a cry. One pair of footsteps breaks into a run.
“Karkat, come back ,” the first voice says but the kid, were, you smell it on him, he’s already in your sight, crouching down and eyes wide, red eyes like yours. Like yours but nothing else about him looks the same as you, he’s all tan skin and dark hair and a soft face and he’s got his hands on your forehead and it feels so nice.
Everything is bad, and it is about to get worse.
“This is extremely inadvisable,” the other voice says, but it sounds a little hesitant. “We need to call someone. An adult.” You can see a pair of grey sneakers and the bottom of jeans from the other guy but not much else, because the boy’s face is in your face and his eyes are wide with shock and concern. You can smell it wafting off of him, feel the tremor in his hands and he pushes your bangs off your face and pulls off your sunglasses and no, that’s bad, that’s very bad, and you flinch away but he looks worried, not disgusted, not scared, or maybe scared but not of you and you try and reach for him.
“Fuck,” he hisses. “Call dad.” You feel fingers on the silver-plated cuff around your neck and the boy draws his fingers back and hisses before he goes back to stroking your hair. It feels. So nice. You can’t stand it. “Help’s on the way. You’re going to be ok, fuck, what kind of fucking creep would do this to a kid?”
The other guy, Kankri, pulls out a cellphone, and despite the wolfsbane your senses are keyed up enough to hear the fingers tapping and you know that Bro is about to strike. The boy above you looks so worried and beautiful and kind and when was the last time someone was kind to you? The last time someone showed concern, it was the last hunt, and he’d ended up dead for his trouble and this guy is just a kid. Just two kids. So you grab onto his sleeve and pull him down and you do something that will probably get you killed.
“Run,” you cough out. “It’s a trap.”
“What?” says the boy who’s holding you.
“Get the hell out of here,” you hiss, but it’s too late. You hear the gunshot and it’s only because of the split-second warning that the stranger is able to duck.
“Fuck,” he growls and tries to pick you up with him. You struggle. He can’t take you with him, that’s not the point. You won’t die, as much as you might want to, but he will and who will help Bro? A half-feral noise rips itself from your mouth without your permission.
“Karkat, leave him!” says the older boy, and he grabs Karkat by the arm. “No time to shift, just run!”
The split-second Karkat hesitates is forever in your head but he puts you down in the end. He doesn’t have a choice; Bro is shooting again, and though he’s crouched, taken as much cover as he can, he has to leave. Now.
“Fuck,” he says again. “I’ll come back,” he promises in a low growl. You can’t help but laugh at that, hysterical and sharp. But by the time Bro makes it out of wherever he was hiding, Karkat the werewolf and the other guy are gone. He curses, shoots some bullets in the direction they’ve vanished in but nothing, and the laughter continues to overwhelm, you’re a monster and monster bait, a child killer who saved a kid who’s just as bad as you probably and Bro hauls you up by your T-shirt and pins you against the tree, getting real close to your face, all up in your personal space, so close you can see through the sunglasses into his eyes and they’re pissed, so pissed, you’re in deeper than the Mariana Trench, the Rockies are an anthill compared to the mountain of shit you’ve hiked up and buried yourself beneath.
“You little fucker,” Bro hisses and no matter how you struggle, there’s no way to escape so you go limp and submissive as you can and pray that he grows bored quickly. “You’re going to wish you were dead by the time I’m done with you, gave it away, you little piece of shit.” He’s holding you by the neck now and bashes your head against the tree trunk. It’s worse than a wall, because the bark is rough and the wood doesn’t give way. You know there’s blood. You can feel it, smell it, hot and sticky in your hair and on your neck. It’s just a matter of how much at this point.
“Please.” Begging never helps, but it’s instinctual. Submit. All you’ve got are your instincts this close to sundown, moonrise.
Bro lets go and you drop to the floor like a stack of stones and when he kicks your ribs you can hear the crack and feel a sharp pain blooming. He gets a few more hits in, his boots are steel toed, as if a kick didn’t hurt enough, and when you can manage to do nothing but shiver in a ball and hold back your whimpers he tosses you over your shoulder.
The walk to the van is an eternity and too short all at once. Each step jostles your bones but when you get there and he tosses you into the trunk, you wish you were still outside. Sold metal, cold and hard as hell, and, worst of all, isolated. There’s no way to get to the front, to the warmth of family just feet away, in the driver’s seat and turning the key. The engine starts, you drag yourself to the barrier.
“Bro, please,” you beg, despite yourself. Moon sickness, you know, but right now the loneliness hurts as much as the physical pain, a cold knife in your heart to match the hot crack in your ribs. You’re scared and you’re isolated, packless and trapped and vulnerable.You’ve got a bit more time until you’re forced to change, don’t even bother to pretend you’ll be able to hold it back at this point. Any energy you have is being used to cling to consciousness. And you are very rapidly failing.
Dirk used to sit with you when you got like this, (like this, you can’t even think it, coward, when you were mid-turn), cross-legged in the trunk with you or basement or wherever Bro tossed you to stick it out. It still hurt, the wolfsbane, the silver, but Dirk would rub your back and brush your hair out of your face and did his best to keep Bro away from the two of you. You weren’t so lonely, when Dirk was around, even if you were no safer. He had stayed with you every change, every month, every year.
But that was why he died, wasn’t it?
You try and stifle your cries, howls, with your fists and it’s embarrassing as fuck and all it does is make Bro slam the dashboard with his.
“Shut up,” he growls, and you can only hear it through the metal and the engine because of your moon sharpened ears, but Bro knows that. “Shut the fuck up, lil’ man, or I’ll make you.”
Even though you can’t see it, you know the moment the moon crests because every sensation you’ve been feeling gets ten, twenty, thirty, times stronger. Your eyes roll back in your head. Everything goes bright, and then, everything goes dark.
Chapter 2: Occultation
Karkat does what any reasonable teenager does in times of distress and turns to the internet.
Occultation — The act of one celestial body obscuring another as a result of moving between the observer and the object being observed. The most well known occultations are the lunar and solar eclipses.
You and Kankri take the long way back to throw off any trail and end up making the last mile of the trip to the campsite your dad’s booked on four legs and in fur. The two of you ditch your clothes, and damn, but you liked that T-shirt, but you hold your sneakers tied together by the laces in your muzzle and tuck the sunglasses into the right one, and they swing back and forth as you run.
By the time you get back, dad’s pacing.
Where have you been? he asks directly into your mind, already changed, fur bristled with worry. Terezi’s there too; She usually joins you on the full moon, ever since you nipped her on a dare when you were four and too young and stupid to know better. Prancing over, she tries to steal your shoes but you let out a warning growl.
Karkat nearly got us killed, Kankri wines. You shove him with all of your weight and manage to make him stumble.
Leave out half the story, won’t you douche canoe? There was a fucking hunter, you snap, emphasizing it by flashing your teeth. You turn back to your dad, ears pressed flat against your skull with rage. He was using a wolf as bait, what was I supposed to do? Leave him? He was bleeding and he was wearing silver and the place smelled like he’d been dipped in wolfsbane soup or something. You need to leave, get him out of there while there’s still a chance of catching the scent. Carefully, you shake your shoes and manage to drop the glasses at Terezi’s feet. So, can you track him or what?
Karkat, dad thinks, as Terezi sniffs and then licks the glasses. She’s the best hunter in the makeshift pack you’ve got gathered here by far, best nose even as a human, only stronger as a wolf and if anyone can find him, Terezi can.
So? you ask again. Already it’s taking too long, you need to go go go, as soon as fucking possible.
Karkat! Your dad’s mental shout finally catches your attention. He does not look happy, but you don’t really care at the moment. This is not the time to be happy, you’re not happy either, and there are more important things to worry about.
What? you snap.
You can’t go running off to rescue a boy by yourself. Calm down. You growl, at that, but your dad puts a heavy paw on you and forces you to the ground.
He had a gun, Kankri informs you as if you weren’t there, as if you didn’t know, as if he didn’t see the guy tied up and scared on the ground he was shaking. You’re shaking. But, as usual, Kankri’s not done lecturing. He never is. You’ll just get us killed. Besides, they’re probably gone.
You growl and struggle to get up, but Terezi full out tackles you and there’s no chance of escaping now. She’s heavy, but you try and toss her. You nip and growl snap your teeth but she’d always been a better wrestler than you.
Get the fuck off! You mind-scream so loud it comes out of your mouth too, a choked noise that’s not meant for the mouth you have at the moment. I gotta help him! I promised I’d come back! He’s going to die!
You can’t help him if you’re dead too, stupid! She grabs you by the neck with her teeth. God, you’re lucky you’ve got me here being logical for you, or you’d be getting yourself into all sorts of dumb trouble! You let out a wordless howl of rage and frustration. I got him, Mr. Vantas! Terezi assures your dad, who is watching the whole scene and smells so strongly of guilt it’s making you nauseous. He’s just feeling all protective because he just changed! He’ll calm down soon.
You resent the implication that this is not a rational reaction to finding a fellow were captured and half poisoned but you’re too occupied trying to get the fuck up to make a logical argument.
Thank you, Terezi, your dad thinks. Kankri, this way.
She lets you up after a couple hours, but by then you know there’s no point in going to look because there’s no way you’ll catch them on foot and dad refuses to drive, can’t turn back long enough to drive, it’s all the same because you’re so angry you’re literally seeing red. You tackle Kankri every time he gets too close to you and your dad has to separate the two of you. The first twelve hours are nothing but anger. You try to sleep but you keep waking up with the smell of sweat and wolfsbane in your nose. It might be because you’re curled around the sunglasses. Who can tell?
Eventually, though, after the rush of the change has worn off, you do calm down a little. Still. You’re loath to prove Terezi right and that’s enough to make you snappish. Kankri’s changed back already and he’s making breakfast on the grill, but you’re too worked up to do more than steal three half cooked sausages and hole up in a corner with them. Changing makes you hungry. (Is the pale-haired wolf eating enough? He looked skinny.)
Terezi is still a wolf, but it’s probably because she prefers that form when she can. You know she likes the way everything smells more intense.
Come on, Karkat, she says. Stop sulking.
Fuck off. You nose the glasses.
Abandoning him would imply you were acting irrational before and it’s the right thing to do and also you have a bleeding heart and Kankri is a dick and you are not going to abandon him.
You can call the police once you change back, she offers, but you shake your head. The police can’t help, not with the were part of it. They wouldn’t understand. You can call Kanaya, Terezi offers. You always feel better after bitching to her.
I’ll change back sooner if you leave me the fuck alone, you grumble and she just tosses her head.
In an hour and a half you’ve got thumbs again and you’re curled up in your tent, buried under a pile of everyone’s sleeping bags and hunched over your phone. There’s a moment where you think about texting Kanaya, but you’re still feeling kind of petty even if Terezi’s right. It’s easier to sulk around google and browse the werewolf subreddits in hopes that some of it isn’t just RPers.
It’s not the first time you’ve done this; that’s how you met Sollux and Nepeta, but you think they’d have mentioned running into a hunter using a kid your age as bait. You post on the wall.
ALMOST GOT SHOT BY A NUT SUCKING SCUMBAG HUNTER LAST NIGHT IN EAST MISSOURI. HE WAS USING WOLF KID AS BAIT. ANYONE ELSE RUN INTO HIM RECENTLY?
There are a couple other groups that look promising: this one’s mixed supernaturals, and you recognize some of the user names as friends of friends, that one’s all wolves and you only see a few references to Teen Wolf, mostly ironic. There’s a few private groups too, and you send requests to join, you copy and paste the message up in as many places as you can.
There’s a rustling of the tent flap and Kankri’s familiar face peeks through. You chuck a pillow at him and it hits him in the chest. He frowns at you.
“Now Karkat, I know you’re frustrated, perhaps even traumatized, but there’s no need to turn to violence. Father has contacted the appropriate authorities, so there’s nothing more to do. You’ll feel better if you eat something, hunger always makes you irrational, especially when you shift-” You throw one of the paperbacks you’d packed at him and it hits him square in the face.
“The hardcover is next unless you and your bullshit condescending holier than thou preacher routine fuck off! If I have to listen to you for one more second I will find the hunter and ask him to shoot me to put me out of my misery! I would rather be shot in the ass with fucking silver and slowly bleed out than have you tell me ONE MORE TIME that we DID THE RIGHT THING by LEAVING HIM THERE! HE’S GOING TO DIE, FUCKFACE!” You’re screaming by the end. Kankri’s just watching you, you’ve completely lost it and you throw your hardcover at him just like threatened. He manages to dodge, or you’re too pissed to aim right. Everything is kind of blurry. You left a kid to die, you almost died, and the shock is wearing off and you’re dealing with it the same way you deal with everything else: anger so strong you can pretend that’s the reason you’re crying.
You saw a dog hit by a car once, when you were five. The tantrum you threw was mind-boggling in its intensity. Your dad had to drag you away from the driver and you left bruises on his shins and threw your blocks at the wall so hard you left dents in it that you still cover with movie posters. But once the anger ebbed - and you drew it out as long as you fucking could - you just broke.
This isn’t a dog. And he’s not dead, not yet, but he could be very soon. You know what death smells like and you care, ok? He warned you about the trap, probably saved your life and you care. You care a lot about a lot of things even if there’s no good reason to.
“Hormones still acting up, I see,” Kankri says weakly, ducking out of the way of the pillow and leaving you in relative peace. You’re debating possible distractions, whether or not to chase after Kankri and pick a fight or read some romance novels, when your phone buzzes.
-- You have a message from timaeusTestified [TT] --
TT: Do you have a picture?
You frown at the screen.
CG: EXCUSE ME?
TT: A picture of the wolf kid.
CG: NO. SORRY. I WAS BUSY RUNNING FOR MY LIFE. WHY?
TT: What did he look like?
CG: WHITE HAIR. FRECKLES. STUPID ASS SUNGLASSES DESPITE IT BEING 6PM IN THE MIDDLE OF THE FUCKING WOODS.
You glance at the aforementioned stupid ass shades, sitting folded next to your sleeping bag pile.
CG: I DIDN’T SEE THE GUY WITH THE GUN.
CG: HAVE YOU RUN INTO HIM?
CG: ARE YOU PRANKING ME? BECAUSE I AM NOT IN THE FUCKING MOOD.
CG: LAST NIGHT WAS SO SHITTY IT MADE A DUMPSTER FIRE LOOK LIKE A PLEASANT PLACE TO TAKE A VACATION.
TT: Is this him?
You open the photo that timaeusTestified has sent you. A virus you could deal with, Sollux would take care of it if you asked him, but if it’s a dick pic or some other stupid prank you’ll fucking lose it you are not in the mood. But it’s not a prank. It’s two freckled kids in sunglasses and matching shirts. One of them has dirty blond hair and the weirdest pointy shades you’ve seen in your life. He’s staring at the camera solemnly. The other, maybe half his size, has a gap toothed grin and a shock of white curls, and the same sunglasses, sliding off his nose and taking up half his face. You squint, and you can see his red eyes just over the lenses, sharp teeth, werewolf-sharp. He’s a lot younger, not quite as skinny, but you recognize him. You’ve only seen him once, and for barely a minute if that but there’s no doubt. His face is burned into your memory, still, and it has not yet had the time to fade.
CG: YEAH, THAT’S HIM. WHO IS HE? HOW DO YOU KNOW HIM?
There’s a pause, long enough to make you antsy but timaeusTestified replies in the end. His response makes your gut twist and if before this had been nothing but a stubborn streak, you know now that you’re not going to give up until he’s safe.
TT: That’s my little bro. His name is Dave.
TT: He’s been missing for years. Where did you see him?
Thank you all for the lovely comments! It's been a while since I posted any fanfic and I am having a great time.
Chapter 3: Satellite
Dirk receives some long-awaited news and is unsure how to handle it.
Satellite — Any object that orbits another celestial body.
CG: MARK TWAIN NATIONAL FOREST.
CG: IT’S THIS HUGE ASS NATIONAL PARK, BUT I DON’T KNOW HOW TO DESCRIBE THE PLACE BETTER. CAN YOU GET HIM OUT? HE LOOKED REALLY FUCKING BAD. I SMELLED WOLFSBANE.
TT: Getting him out’s the plan. Could you find the place you saw him again?
CG: GOD. DEFINITELY. IT PROBABLY STILL STINKS TO HIGH FUCKING HEAVEN AND BACK. I DON’T KNOW WHERE THEY WENT AFTER, THOUGH. THEY PROBABLY HAD A CAR BUT I DIDN’T SEE IT.
You’ve had false pings before. You’ve had nothing but false positives in the past, emphasis on the false, like a bad round of low-quality pregnancy tests, which is obvious because you’re still looking for him. Otherwise, Dave would be here, safe, and you wouldn’t be talking on Reddit to a stranger, exchanging pesterchum handles and how many kids could there be with sunglasses and white hair?
You think logically. There’s really only two options.
One, Bro has decided to come after you. This is, unfortunately, more likely than not, and it’s only natural that he’d use Dave to bait you. He knows you’re a were now because he saw Dave bite you and he saw you change, and he knows that for the cold front you put up you love Dave, Dave is yours, and you’d do anything to get him out of Bro’s hands. That’s why you convinced him to bite you in the first place. Hell, if he offered you a trade, yourself for Dave, you’d take it.
Bro won’t do that. He wants you both, and he gets what he wants.
The other option is that some other wolf really has run into Dave. That has all sorts of implications, mainly that Bro’s using Dave to bait and trap others like yourself. There’s trauma shit that this implies, psychological garbage that you leave to Rose.
You’re not sure how long you stare at your laptop. Last night’s shift was like every other one these past few years; painful but quick transformation, and then Roxy tried to get you to wrestle while you sulked and worried and chewed on the T-shirt that Dave had worn the last time you saw him. It stopped smelling like him years ago, you’re not sure why you took it when you ran, and you’re not sure why you have it now. It’s nothing but shreds. It’s folded next to the laptop right now, and you can never make yourself throw it out even though all it does is make you angry.
You start hacking into carcinoGeneticist’s various social media accounts. He has an Instagram and Tumblr under the same name, active for a couple of years, but it’s not hard to make a fake account, a fake backlog, mess with the timestamps a bit, or Bro hacked into the account of this grumpy looking kid Dave’s age and is sending messages through him-
The door slams open. “Breakfast!” D cheers, arms laden with what looks and smells like half of the contents of the local deli, and a third of the bakery. An excited shriek is all that announces Roxy as she barrels into the room and all but tackles D.
“Hell yeah!” She opens a brown bag and sniffs inside. You can hear the crinkle of the paper. “Hash browns! And a turkey sandwich. Love you D!” You debate moving to somewhere quieter where you can get work done; there will be no peace until breakfast is over or longer.
“Dirk!” Roxy smooshes the edge of a sandwich into the side of your face. Smells like ham and cheese. You shrug and attempt to shoulder her out of your personal space “ Dirk . Dirky. C’mon, what’s so interesting that you can’t eat breakfast?”
“It’s the most important meal of the day.” She’s already elbowing you out of your seat.
“No, let me see.” She’s stronger than you, if not as quick, and the only reason you manage to stop yourself from being shoved onto your ass is the quick landing you manage to pull together as she gets crumbs all over the keyboard.
“You better clean that up.” She won’t. You love her anyways, even as she continues chattering through a mouthful of food while she flips through the windows you have opened.
“Why are you hacking this poor little cutie? Look at his little grumpy face. He’s so scowly.” She beams beatifically as she scrolls through his hipster tumblr full of gifs from romcoms and long, detailed movie reviews at lightning speed. His Instagram gets a similar quick perusal. His eyes aren’t as red as Dave’s but they remind you of him in a way that hurts your chest. “Aww, he made his own little firewall. It’s so crappy, little baby programmer. What’d he do to you, you paranoid- Oh shit.” Roxy whirls towards you, all pink curls and wide, bright eyes. “He saw Dave?”
“It might not be-” you start, but Roxy’s already giving you a hug so brisk and tight it leaves you breathless, and then D is looking over your shoulder too.
“Rose!” Roxy calls. “Rose, somebody spotted Dave!” Now her hope is raised, all shiny and bright and vulnerable, and you’re scared for her. It will make it all so much worse when it’s nothing but a trap. You can handle it, you’re tough, you’re cool, but the others. D is frantically reading through the chat backlog and there’s so much emotion on his face you have to look away.
“What’s this I hear?” Rose asks. She’s still in her pajamas, which, for Rose, means a silky purple dressing gown with matching slippers. Rose looks cool, calm, her voice doesn’t waver, but you see that same face every day in the mirror and you know she’s feeling the same desperation you are trying to hard no to.
“Some kid spotted Dave,” D says, and then he processes the rest of the post. “Fuck. Fuck, bro’s using him to lure other wolves or some shit, that’s bad, that’s fucked, goddammit poor kid, we gotta get him out of there.”
“Obviously. That is hardly a new development.” Rose stares at you for a moment before saying exactly what you don't want her to. "You were going to run off by yourself, weren't you?"
Everyone whirls towards you and you frown. "I would have left a note." Roxy makes a hurt noise. "Don’t pretend you wouldn’t have done the same.” Rose shrugs because it’s true and probably why she guessed your plan in the first place.
“Nobody is going anywhere by themselves,” D says, attempting to take control of the situation. You won’t, but mostly because you couldn’t get far enough ahead to lose Roxy now that’s she’s actually expecting you to run.
D then does something unacceptable which is to take your laptop and phone and hold it above his head when you try and grab for it. What the fuck, D! You need that.
“D! What the fuck!” Your voice does not crack. Unfortunately, neither does your uncle.
“Eat,” he says. “Shower, dress, and then we’ll plan.”
“But Dave-” you protest.
“Kiddo,” D says, and your nose wrinkles. He looks like he wants to hug you, and the only reason he doesn’t is because his hands are full of your electronics. “He’s been waiting three years. If he’s still kicking after this long, an hour or two won’t make a difference.”
He’s right, he is logically correct, and you hate it. You want to be logical because that’s what Dave needs right now, so you should agree with D’s very logical plan, but you can’t, but you have to. The slight quirk in Rose’s brow makes you want to break something but you manage to push it down. It’s all you can do to walk to your room in silence instead of stomping and growling like you want to. You do slam the door, though, and the dressed door and you tear through clothing like it did you wrong.
“We’ll find him, Dirk,” Rose says as she passes your door. It’s easier to to pretend not to hear her.
When you get back Roxy is pestering CarcinoGeneticist. You can tell from the grey shouty text you glimpse before she tilts the screen away from you. You assume she has hacked into your phone to get his chumhandle.
“Why does she get her phone?” you ask, not sounding like a three-year-old who’s upset your sister got a cookie and you did not. D hands you the sandwich Roxy smooshed in your face.
“People who eat breakfast get their tech,” she informs you, tilting her head backwards until the two of you are making upside down eye contact. She grins. “So eat. Your fucking. Breakfast.”
“Where’d you put it?”
You glare at D. He’s stashed your phone and laptop somewhere because you don’t see it on the table. It’s in the kitchen he didn’t leave the room, he’ll give it back but you feel useless just sitting here, doing nothing
“Eat your fucking breakfast, Dirk,” D says, a grin on his face, but he softens and messes up your hair. You growl, but you'd been in too much of a rush to style it the way you like to, so it’s more out of habit than real annoyance. “Stop punishing yourself, you didn’t do anything wrong.”
“I left him there,” you grit out. “I left him alone with Bro.”
“And we’re going to get him out!” Roxy says. “But you can’t do that if you’re starving. So eat, god damn it.”
You eat god damn it, you eat your fucking breakfast. But you’re not happy about it. D gives you another sandwich when you finish your first one and you eat that one as well.
Roxy looks at her phone screen with the same kind of look on her face she makes at the kittens in the pet store three miles down. Cats love her, maybe because that’s what she turns into, a big ass, pink-eyed, white-furred panther.
“You would love this guy, he’s so grumbly and paranoid and he’s got the cutest soft spot for Davey.” Rose wanders in and starts making tea and she leaves you a cup, and finally, finally, D takes your laptop and phone from the cabinet where you keep the cutting boards and slides them over to you.
“Can you hack into his webcam?” you ask, opening up your own laptop. There’s a few new messages on it.
KK: DID YOU GIVE TIPSYGNOSTALGIC MY CHUMHANDLE?
KK: SHE SAYS SHE’S YOUR COUSIN. DO YOU KNOW HER?
KK: HELLO? WHERE’D YOU GO?
TT: Sorry, bro. Yeah she’s my cousin.
TT: She’s cool. She stole my phone to get your chumhandle.
“Webcam?” you ask again. D pretends he does not hear you, even if Rose leans over to read over your shoulder.
“What do you take me for? An amateur?” She puffs up with pride but deflates soon after.“But you weren’t listening, I told you he was paranoid. He’s got a piece of tape on it.”
That’s an alarm if there ever was one. “What are you doing now?”
“I’m doing what people with social skills do and asking him if we can call him.”
“Dirk. Calm down. Take a chill pill. Take two, even, we’ll do video, I know Bro can mess with audio.”
KK: SHE’S ASKING TO VIDEO CALL. THIS IS NOT A TRAP, RIGHT?
KK: A DOUBLE REACHAROUND IN CASE THE FIRST TRAP DIDN’T WORK AND I GOT OUT ALIVE.
KK: A PLAN B FOR BLUDGEONING ME TO DEATH?
He reminds you of Dave, a little, the way he rambles on. Roxy presses the call button. You hear the Skype ring tone and she scoots her chair right next to yours so you both fit in on the screen. D leans forward to squeeze at the top edge and Rose pretends she is not listening with bated breath.
TT: Nah I’m here too. Pick up.
He picks up. The screen is completely black. You glare suspiciously. “Hello?” he croaks. His voice is a bit scratchy, definitely unhappy, but not as loud as you thought it would be. Roxy pipes up.
“Yes! I’m Roxy. I think you’ve got something on your camera!” She taps at the screen cheerfully. “We can’t actually see you.”
There’s a grumbly little, “fuck, the tape,” and you hear his fingers scratch as he struggles to remove it. “Sollux is crazy about hackers, as if anyone cares about my dumb ass, but no, it’s all KK tape up your camera you lazy fuck, KK, the CIA is going to hack into your laptop to watch you jerk off, jesus christ , paranoid motherfucker...” Roxy does not lose her delighted grin but she does kick you under the table.
“I’m Dirk,” you say.
“Karkat,” he grumbles back, and finally you get a visual. It’s really the dark-skinned, chubby-faced boy who the Instagram belongs to, not Bro with a voice modulator and a laptop with a broken camera.
“Sorry about the urgency!” Roxy says. “Bro’s good with computers so we need a visual in case he hacked into your account and used a voice modulator or something!”
Little guy Dave’s age, Dave’s eyes, shifts under the blanket pile. You can hear some chattering outside and you’re pretty sure he’s in a tent.
“Bro?” he asks. “I thought Dave was your brother?”
“Bro’s what we call my dad.” Karkat glances at D. “The hunter.” Karkat chokes.
“Your dad-” Panic flashes over his face, disgust, fear, emotions so clean and potent it’s hard for you to watch. “He’s. Why’s he behind you if- fuck you’re just trying to get him back, he must have escaped!”
“Karkat?” someone calls, faintly muffled through the fabric flap.
Here is the shouting you expected, his teeth sharpen as he snarls. He seems more bark than bite, though. He’s easy to read, and you can read the genuine fear even as he puffs and blusters. “I won’t help you! Stay the fuck away from him, he didn’t hurt anyone you-”
“No!” D’s eyes are wide. “No, I’m his uncle! I’d never hurt Dave.” He holds up his hands to show that they’re empty, but the picture doesn’t fit in the screen and also this is a video call. D’s showing almost as much emotion as Karkat is. It’s embarrassing. You cover your face and groan. “We’re trying to get him here, safe.”
“Are you a wolf?” Karkat asks suspiciously. D shakes his head.
“Dirky is, though,” Roxy says, jabbing you with her elbow. And then she winks, and she does that thing where she makes her eyes go slit and catlike. “I’m more of a feline persuasion.”
“And we’ve got a witch here as well, I promise I’m cool with supernatural folk,” D says, pulls off his sunglasses and fidgets with them before slipping them back on.
“What’s with the sunglasses?” Karkat asks, as someone comes into the room, more dark hair, a girl who’s also in sunglasses. You think she must have cut her hair herself, with a kitchen knife. It looks that bad. You dig it. “Calm down, Rezi, I’m fine.”
“Who ya talkin to?” she asks. “This about the wolf kid you’re all hormonal over?”
“Terezi? Kindly fuck off.” Karkat growls.
“It is about the wolf kid! Hello strangers!” She leans towards the computer. “Kitkat slept curled around that guy’s sunglasses all night! He’s totally whipped.”
“You have his sunglasses? ” you say. He lost his sunglasses and that’s bad, he loves those things, Bro’s going to be pissed, might not get him a new pair for a while, but there’s something Dave touched within the past twenty-four hours. If you get down to Missouri, you can hold Dave’s sunglasses.
Abruptly, you stand up, and walk out of the room. It’s too much. You can hear Roxie calling after you but she doesn’t get up, and you can hear D sit down, presumably in your seat. Rose stares after you.
“Karkat,” D says softly, “are your parents with you?”
You can’t really hear Karkat’s response. You’re already outside. There are too many feelings all twisted up in every part of you. Your chest hurts. Your legs are twitching. You need to get out, so you strip off your shirt and kicks off your shoes and pants and you shift. The pain helps ground you and you’re panting a bit already. You grab your bag in your mouth.
Dave , you think. It’s Dave. Those were his sunglasses. We’re getting him out.
You run. Jake lives two miles away, and if you’re going to be gone for a while, (you are, you’ve got a lead, and you’re not letting go of it, not this time), you better let him know before you leave.
Thank you again for the support!
Chapter 4: Magnitude
Dave wakes up in the back of the van and buys some dangerous plants.
Magnitude — The brightness of a celestial body. A lower magnitude number indicates a brighter object.
The next thing you’re aware of is the creak of the trunk as it opens and lets in the sunlight. You carefully do not groan, just feel around for your sunglasses before you remember the guy, the wolf, Karkat, he took them.
Luckily the sun is not a problem for long, because Bro throws a T-shirt and some jeans at you and it hits square in the face. Then, you can’t see anything.
“Get up,” he says. “We’ve got errands.”
You try and gauge his mood. Bro’s face is blank as a freshly painted wall, a notebook on the first day of school. His voice seems no louder than usual, or at least no louder than it usually does post moon, when your ears are still overly sensitive and all the colors are dull and the noises sharp.
You scramble into the clothing in the back of the car. Again, you look around for your sunglasses (again you remember they’re gone; fuck, everything is a little hazy still) but Bro doesn’t like looking at your eyes. It makes him mad, so you’re stuck with your crappy backup pair, Bro’s old ones with the wrecked frames and tape on one of the leg thingies that go behind your ears. Handles. Sticks. Fuck. Whatever. When he finally lets you out of the back you're in a little shopping center, fast food, drugstore, a little plant shop. That’s probably the reason you stopped, the plant shop. You know you’re right when Bro tosses you your bracelets and necklace, silver, and you snap them on.
“You know the drill,” he says. You do. Scheduling is inconsistent as fuck, you’ll go a month, sometimes two, without stopping to restock. Sometimes twice a week, but the two of you always split. He gets ammo and beer and cigarettes from wherever he does, from Walmart or shady guys in back alleyways or, on rare occasions, thrift shops. He gives you his card and gives you a number, a budget, never quite enough, and you buy protein and granola bars and gas in a can. If he’s feeling nice, or not as pissed as usual, he’ll grab some fast food for the two of you. Given what happened last night - two nights ago, time is fuzzy sometimes - you’re not holding your breath.
In the end, your the one to get to the little flower shop first - Harley’s Horticulture - arms full of half paid for, half lifted nonperishables and a box of snoopy bandaids. It’s cozy and cool in here, pots on shelves, hanging from the ceiling, bare-bones cement, the sound of trickling water and the smell of dirt and plants easing the headache you hadn’t realized you had until it softened. There’s a girl about your age behind the counter, dreamily sorting what looks like lumps of dirty onions into boxes. She looks up when you approach shaking her hair out of her face.
“Hi! Can I help you?” she asks cheerily. Her sleeves are rolled up and there’s dirt up to her elbows, beneath her nails, and you notice this because it’s easier to look at hands when you talk, keep an eye on where they are, what they’re saying that words and faces don’t.
“Do you have any - fuck, what’s it called?” The other word for Wolfsbane, because you don’t say wolfsbane out loud that’s one of his rules, it draws attention, but if you don’t remember and he finds out you were just hanging around and not making yourself useful he’ll be pissed. You need to get out of his bad books, into his mediocre books, his minor annoyance books, his shit list instead of his death list and you’ve spaced out mid-conversation haven’t you, because the pretty dark-haired girl is tilting her head at you and her thick brows are scrunched in concern.
“Are you ok?” she asks. She almost puts a hand on your wrist and you don’t flinch, and it’s ok anyways because she doesn’t, just hesitates and draws back and you’re glad for that. Really.
“I’m peachy keen,” you say, and your voice doesn’t crack. “all engines optimal, hardware and software is up to date, no malware we’re talking a brand new mac, because Apple is the best, fresh out of the box, no scratches, no dents, hasn’t even been dropped once, I’m that good - Monkshood.” She looks dazed, but it’s better than worried (the last guy who was worried about you got shot at by your brother) so you count that as a victory. “Do you have any monkshood?” you read her nametag. It’s written in green sparkly pen. “Jade?”
“Monkshood.” Jade’s hands flutter. “Yeah, we’ve got some. Have you handled it before?”
“I’m practically a monkshood expert,” you say assertively as she pulls on a pair of filthy gardening gloves. Also bright green. “I’ve got my PhD in handling that shit, wrote enough papers to fill a library of textbooks, all which I’ve written, about handling monkshood.” She smiles at that, a flash of sharp teeth that make you blink twice. Is she? She can’t be.
“You’ll need to be careful with it, the sap can be an irritant. Make sure to wash your hands after touching it,” Jade says cheerily, as she swings out from behind the counter. “Follow me!” It’s not always so easy to tell, as it is with you or Karkat, red-eyed as you are. But strange eyes are almost always a sign of something not entirely human, and her eyes are green behind her round glasses, green like a freshly grown leaf, green like a highlighter, like a neon sign in the window of a fast food joint, like poison. They almost glow, in the same mirrored way that a cat’s do, when the light hits just right.
You can’t let Bro see her.
Get the plants and get out before Bro’s done with shopping, or if you can’t manage that, make sure it’s not her at the register when he comes in. Wolves wild and changed, hunting like they are when they find you, (Bro says they’d kill you if he didn’t kill them first, territorial, it’s easier to believe it but half of the time you’re not sure you do), you can swallow that just barely, you can see why Bro would do what he does so you just lay there and you play bait and atone. But Jade’s wearing a flowered apron and a chewed up number two pencil in her ponytail, the eraser worn down to a barely there nub. There’s dirt across her dark cheeks like freckles and her teeth are sharp but her smile is kind and it crinkles her eyes.
“Does anyone else work here?” you ask.
“This is my grandpa's shop!” she says happily. “But he’s out for lunch right now so it’s just me and Bec.”
“Bec?” you echo.
Maybe you can talk to them instead, play interference and maybe Bro won’t see Jade and it’ll all be ok. You open your mouth to ask, but Jade whistles and says, “Here, Bec!” and from somewhere within the aisles trots the biggest dog you’ve ever seen. As you are now, human-shaped, Bec could eat you in a bight and a half, but she bumps happily into Jade’s legs before sniffing your hand curiously. (You don’t have to offer it to her, she’s just that big.)
“That’s a big ass dog,” you say as she licks your hands happily. “You’re a regular monster, aren’t you?” You bend down and scratch Bec behind the ears to hide the panic on your face. Jade’s alone, and Bro’s going to come and there’s no one else you can direct him to, but Bec has teeth almost as big as yours when you’re shifted even if all she’s doing is lovingly washing your face in drool. It’s the middle of the day in the middle of a shopping complex, but you wouldn’t put it past Bro to drag Jade somewhere quieter if there’s nothing stopping him. Dogs can be loud, so Bec will buy some time.
Jade is moving so slowly, wrapping the pot of wolfsbane (monkshood) in brown paper and tying it up with twine. She doesn’t touch any of the leaves even once, and then she washes the gardening gloves in the sink like she’s washing her hands, and then she washes her bare hands too. This is taking too long. You're willing to use the card one more time, spend more money than you're supposed to and take the beating that will result, if you can get out before Bro gets in.
“Can I get you anything else?” she asks cheerily.
“Nope, that’s it.”
“Alright! That’ll be nineteen-ninety-nine.” She flashes a quick grin at you, sharp teeth, wolf sharp teeth, but they’re also a little bit crooked and you’ve almost made it, almost, when there’s a hand on your shoulder and you do not flinch.
“I got it, kid,” says Bro, fumbling out his wallet. He flashes Jade that charming smile and she smiles back, and you can’t see his eyes but you know he has seen her teeth, her eyes, the sweat on the back of your neck that is the only way you allow your fear to show. He always sees. You’re carefully not shaking.
“Hey, Bro.” The words are not calm but emotionless, so tightly held together you're mentally white-knuckled. Bec, who had just been so kind and gentle, snuffling your face and licking your cheeks, draws back her lips, stand between you and Bro, and growls, tail straight instead of furiously batting your legs as it had been only moments before, she is not fooled by the disarming grin, the jaunty head tilt. Jade’s eyes flick back and forth between you, Bro, and Bec.
“Mind calling off your dog?” Bro asks lightly. “Bad for business if I can’t pay.”
“Yes! Of course,” Jade says, but her brows are furrowed. She snaps, points to her side. “Here, Bec.” Bec gives Bro one last warning growl, you’d press your ears to your head if you were a wolf now but all you can do is stand very, very still, stiller than death because death was once alive and moving, that’s how still you are.
“Thanks…” he leans forward towards her chest, the sleaze, and sure he’s reading her name tag but it makes you uncomfortable to watch. “Jade,” he reads. Even though you’re already holding too many shopping bags and Bro’s arms are empty, you’re the one who holds the plant. “Come on, kid,” he says, hand on your shoulder, leading you out of the shop.
Maybe he didn’t notice. Her eyes are green, there are human eyes that are green, but as soon as the two of you get into the car Bro starts looking up motels on his phone instead of driving and you know you’re not that lucky. By the time he starts driving, you’ve worked yourself into a silent panic; it’s too soon, you’re not ready, even though Karkat and the other one had gotten away hunting twice in as many days, (maybe it’s more but you don’t remember anything since you changed), it’s getting to you. You’re breaking. There’s no way you can warn her, give her time to slip away when Bro is actively on the prowl instead of waiting for his prey to come to him, and it’s so much worse that way, Bro going after instead of waiting, so much harder to justify. This is her home. Where would she run to?
“You get the chance to make up for Thursday,” Bro says after letting you stew in silence. “Don’t fucking blow it.” There’s nothing to do but nod.
“How are we going to do this?” And Bro does not smile at you but there is something bloodthirsty and cruel in the angle of his shoulders.
“I was thinking I’d let you take care of it,” he informs you. (Your stomach drops.) “I’d bring you to her place, pick the lock. There’s wolves around these parts, you know.” He makes a right turn. “It’d be a shame if one got into a house.”
He wants you. Wants you to-
“I can’t,” you say, and Bro steps on the brakes and whirls on you so fast, slams his fist into the window so hard, pushes you against the glass and your head knocks and you can hear the clunk.
“Oh, we know you can,” Bro says. “You have already, haven’t you?” You’d do anything to make his stop talking, but you’re pinned between your seatbelt and his arm. “You killed Dirk, you killed your brother, you can kill a fucking wolf, can’t you? Is that thing’s life worth more than your brother’s?”
Bro’s got his hand around your throat, so you can’t shake your head, you can’t say no, yes , whatever will make it stop. He pats your cheek almost gently and you can’t cringe away, there’s no room. and then lets you go, turns back to the road so calmly you’d never believe he’d just attacked you if you hadn’t been there. “I’ll be there to make you change back. Don’t worry. It’ll be easy, kid. Piece of cake.”
Chapter 5: Parallax
Karkat eats some dirt and does some investigating.
Parallax — The apparent motion of an observed object against the background caused by the movement of the observer. An example of this is the motion of the stars as seen from observatories on Earth.
“I love the summer!” Terezi screeches as she climbs up a fallen tree and howls, two-legged but wolf-wild in her lanky, grinning, teenage body.
“This is serious,” you snarl, waving flies away from your ears as the two of you attempt to retrace the frantic path you and Kankri had taken two nights before. The light is a soft green, filtered through the leaves, the air is cool and there’s stones and water and on another day sure, you’d grumble, but you’d be climbing and wrestling and let Terezi shove you into the cold stream but now you have a mission. You’re focussed. Maybe you’d been a little enthusiastic in your assurance that you could find it, especially after your dad hadn’t let you out of his sight yesterday and Kankri was only too happy to play watch, but you had Terezi. It’d only been thirty-six hours or so, and she had a better nose than you even when she had a head cold.
“Of course it’s serious!” Terezi trills as she jumps down and lands on all fours. She does not sound serious: she sounds feral, the thrill of the chase only increasing her excitement. “That was torture! Attempted kidnapping! Shooting a gun in a no hunting area!” She grins, sharp teeth bared like it’s all a game, but a game she is going to win. “Justice must be served! But it cannot be rushed.” She points towards her left. “Besides! You two went this way.”
“Why the fuck didn’t you lead with that?” you grumble. “Do you have some sort of sick desire to watch each and every one of my blood vessels burst? That’s what this is, isn’t it.” Terezi just flashes you that sharp-toothed grin and cackles. The trees in that direction are familiar-ish, you kind of recognize that rock, but at this point Terezi seems to know where she’s going. You certainly don’t, but it’s hard to trace your own scent even when it reaks, since it smells like you. There’s not much to do but skulk after her for a bit until you do smell something, old blood and the faint faded tang of sick. Terezi’s grin loses none of its brightness but the tilt of her head is serious as it ever gets.
You make to run into the clearing, maybe there’s a sign of him, a note, something there to point you in the right direction, but suddenly the world flips upside down and your face is pressed into the ground. Terezi places one foot on your back and rests her cane inches away from your face.
“Terezi!” There is dirt in your mouth. Terezi has tripped you with her stupid cane with the flair and enthusiasm that she does everything else with. You are spitting mad. You literally spit the dirt from your mouth and then splutter some more for good measure. “What the actual fuck? Do you think this is a joke? A wolf has been tortured and you’re here, amusing yourself by filling my squawk blister with the rancid ground his captor stomped on when he tied him up and tried to shoot me!” Terezi hits you in the head, in the friendly way she does, with her cane. That means you’re going to have a lump the size of a rock in an hour.
“You’ll destroy evidence if you charge in there head first!” she trills, placing her foot on your back and posing like she’s some sort of vanquisher of evil. “Stupid.”
“Shut up. Fine.” The ground is soft enough that you haven’t scraped anything, but your knees and palms still sting. You make sure to put on a show as you brush off. “I’m going slowly. A three legged turtle would beat me if this was a race, which it is not even though the longer we wait the more likely what’s his name is going to be dead.” His name is Dave, but saying his name makes it all to real, even though you’d seen him in the stinking sickly flesh.
“Stop being overdramatic,” Terezi says, the hypocrite that she is. “Come on, you’re the one who wanted to do this! Take it seriously and let’s look for clues!” She hauls you forward and you shove her with your elbow right in the skinny ribs before you get into the clearing because even if she’s right, she's a pain in your ass. The police looked around earlier, you were told. You don’t see any sign of it.
“I’m not being overdramatic.”
“You’re always being overdramatic, Vantas,” she chirps, and in you go.
It’s definitely the place. There’s a pile of vomit where you’d heald him in your arms for just those few moments, flies buzzing around, black and ugly. Terezi curls her nose, (it’s putrid, even to you, you can barely keep from adding to it, especially when the picture of him bent over, red eyes watering, emptying his stomach comes to mind,) and Terezi has a better nose. Still, she manages not to lose her breakfast.
“Well, you definitely weren’t hallucinating,” she says. “Unless this was yours.”
“Kankri was there too!” you protest, but you don’t give the words your usual rancor. You’re a bit distracted.
“He doesn’t count, he gets all panicky, and he’d probably go along with your delusions to be ‘nice’. Hey.” She throws you a disposable camera. “Record the evidence.” You didn’t know they made these anymore, let alone are you able to think why Terezi, who is blind, would own a disposable camera, but usually it’s best not to question her.
“I was not,” you hiss, “being delusional.” Still, you snap a photo. The sound of the shutter and the flash is, admittedly, more satisfying than your phone but you pretend not to enjoy it. You take a few more pictures of the clearing for good measure, snap, snap, snap, the light of the camera illuminating the vomit, the scuff marks, the tree he had been leaned against.
“I can smell that.” Terezi picks up a stick from the ground and pokes at the pile of vomit. She breaks the tip of the stick off and pulls out a ziplock from her backpack. You’ve known Terezi for years, but every so often she does something that makes your stomach churn with disgust.
“You’re not keeping that. Please tell me you’re not.”
“It’s evidence,” Terezi informs you, primly dropping the vomit stick in her bag. At least she doesn’t lick it, you tell yourself, as she brushes off her hands on her jeans. “You said he shot at you? Let’s look for the bullets.”
“I don’t see how this is going to help us find him,” you grumble.
“Information is information, Karkat! He might have a hunting license we can use to find him,” Terezi says. “He might have left fingerprints, or DNA! And we’ll figure out what type of gun he uses.”
“How is that going to help?” you growl. “We know who he is already, it’s where the maggot is hiding that is the thing that we are trying to find!”
“Who’s the expert here? It’s certainly not you! Now get your ass to work!”
It takes you longer than you thought it would to find the bullets, and by the time you’ve taken photos and pried one out of a tree to put in another of Terezi’s little ziplock bags, your ankles are completely covered with mosquito bites and your hair is sweaty and sticking to the back of your neck. Terezi finds a piece of torn cloth too, and what might be human hair or might be animal fur, because she’s the best at finding things. There’s also some bootprints in the mud, which might be the guy’s and might be the police’s, but pictures are taken anyways. You trek back to the campsite where your dad and Kankri are packing up and sulk your way into the back seat of the minivan. You don’t feel much like calling and in the middle of nowhere that you are, cellphone coverage is too inconsistent, but there’s enough bars to text. You should give Dirk updates, probably.
KK: ME AND A FRIEND GOT SOME SHIT FROM THE SITE.
KK: POLICE DIDN’T DO FUCK ALL SO MUCH AS I CAN TELL JUST STOMPED AROUND A BIT, PUFFING UP THEIR CHESTS AND STROKING THEIR EGO AND THEN CALLED IT A DAY WHICH SURPRISES ME NOT A FUCKING BIT. I TOLD KANKRI BUT NO. I’M RIGHT ALL THE TIME AND IT’S A FUCKING CURSE. NO MATTER HOW BAD THINGS GET ON THIS BIG LUMP OF DIRT WE CALL EARTH, LIFE NEVER FAILS TO DISAPPOINT YET AGAIN.
TT: Yeah, we figured that would happen. Bro’s got an in with the police. What did you find?
KK: WE GOT ONE OF HIS BULLETS. SOME FABRIC. TEREZI GOT TOOK A STICK COVERED IN VOMIT, I DON’T KNOW WHY. I DON’T KNOW HOW ANY OF THIS IS HELPING.
TT: Everything helps. We’re closer than we’ve ever been. My cousin is hacking the the park records to see if we can get a license plate. We might be able to follow him with the traffic cams.
KK: ARE YOU GOING TO BE NEARBY SOON? I CAN GIVE YOU THE SHIT IF YOU WANT.
TT: Yeah, I’ll come with Rose to pick it up. Rendezvous location somewhere public. No insult, but I don’t know you.
KK: YEAH I DON’T REALLY KNOW YOU EITHER. SOMEWHERE PUBLIC SOUNDS GOOD. THERE’S A SHOPPING CENTER NEARBY WITH A STARBUCKS THAT’S ALWAYS CROWDED AS FUCK.
TT: Rose is tentacleTherapist. She’ll message you, you can send her the location.
“I’m coming with you,” hisses Terezi into your ear gleefully, giving you a heart attack and a half.
“Not if you were the last wolf on this god forsaken shitstain of a planet,” you reply with equal emotion, except the emotion is anger. Terezi rolls her eyes and sits back with a self satisfied grin, like she knows she’s won. Perhaps she has, but you’re not going to be the one to let her know that.
“Fuck you,” you inform her.
“Language, Karkat!” Kankri parrots, and your dad just sighs.
KK: MY FRIEND WANTS TO COME WITH ME.
TT: That’s fine. Are they chill with magic?
KK: SHE’S A WOLF SO I SURE AS FUCK HOPE SO. THE ONE WHO WALKED IN ON THE SKYPE CALL YESTERDAY.
KK: IS TOMORROW GOOD? I HAVE SCHOOL AND I CAN’T DITCH IT WITHOUT GETTING BALLS DEEP IN TROUBLE BUT I CAN MEET YOU AFTER AT ABOUT THREE.
TT: Sounds good. See you then.
KK: OK. BYE.
KK: HOPE YOU FIND HIM.
TT: Me too.
Sorry it's a bit short and very late! I will finish this!
Chapter 6: Transit
Dave has a moral quandary and makes a decision.
This one turned out a bit long. Consistency is something I am not familiar with.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Transit — The movement of a celestial body across another, from the viewpoint of an observer.
For the rest of the day, all you can think about is her stupid teeth and her eyes, lurid green against dark skin, the way that they looked at you, so trusting and concerned. The eyes of an idiot, smiling as she walks to death row, an indoor cat about to be kicked to the curb for the very first time in the middle of the typhoon of the century. She is going to die. She is going to die and you are going to be the one to kill her. You can’t eat for the rest of the day which is good, because Bro doesn’t stop for food and your granola bar rations are running too low for comfort.
The two of you eventually check into another shitty motel room. Bro has a thing for shitty motel rooms, even if you know he’s got enough cash to stay in the Ritz for the rest of his life and clear out the minibar twice a day, but you think he likes flicking cigarettes at cockroaches and rats too much. You both go through your routine: you take two minute a shower, wash the dirt off of you while Bro stashes his weapons and cigarettes around, and when you come back, toweling your hair out, Bro’s spread on one bed and Cal on the other, both staring at you.
“Ready for business, kiddo?” Bro asks.
“What if she’s like me?” The words just slip out, like the world’s slimiest piece of spaghetti between the tongs of your brain. You’ve got no filter most of the time, and this freaked out you have even less and as soon as the words are out you know you’ve fucked up, you’ve fucked up big time but there’s no going back, there’s never any going back. Chickening out just makes it worse, it’s one of his rules.
He lets you stew in it for a few moments too long to handle (it’s calculated, it’s all calculated), and you try not to fidget, before he looks up.
“What the fuck,” Bro says, because it isn’t a question, not the way he speaks, it’s never really a question, “does that mean?”
You could benefit from some air, a deep breath maybe, but your chest goes all twisted up and tight and you can barely breath, except you have enough air to talk and dig yourself deeper into this shit pit. Your voice cracks, and you do not wince.
“She’s just trying to live her life, you know,” you start, and the ball is rolling, the emotionlessness just increasing your panic, increasing your words, you have no control over what comes out of your mouth, “ just chilling out selling plants and not hurting anyone, I mean, what’s the point really, of getting all up in her business when there’s hundreds of more dangerous wolves we could be spending the time on-”
And Bro slams you into the wall so hard your teeth chatter and you see stars, you see, fuck not stars, not the moon, just little white flecks that you don’t know the name for and the indifferent sheen of Bro’s sunglasses. You want your sunglasses. You wonder if the guy from the other night dropped them when he ran and stepped on them and they cracked into a million little shards of plastic, or if he threw them out and purged his mind and pockets of any proof of your existence, or, most terrifyingly, if he kept them.
You’ve gone deep into yourself and Bro rattles you up against the wall until you snap out of it.
“Listen to me! Do you think. Do you think you’re not hurting anyone?” Bro hisses into your face. There are little flecks of spit across your nose but you don’t flinch, don’t struggle, because anything but hanging limply will only make it worse. “You hurt me every motherfucking day, you little shit, and you hurt humans, you killed Dirk, and you kill your own fucking kind to. You,” Bro says, “are a monster, you’re a monster’s monster, and the only reason I haven’t put you down myself like the rabid animal you are is because I can point you in the direction of a hundred more just like you and pull the trigger.” He twists his fist where it’s gripping the collar of your shirt and you can barely breath. Your knees are weak.
“She’s better than you, and she still deserves to die.” He lets go, all at once, and you collapse onto the ground, curled up as small as you can get. You get a kick to your ribs for the trouble. “Don’t think that you don’t, kid. You’re taking care of this tonight.” He looms over you, collapsed in on the floor. “Do you understand? Do you, Dave!?”
“Good.” There’s some blood under his nails; he must have clawed you up. You’re too numb to really feel it, or in too much pain to distinguish it from the rest. After a while, it’s all become the same. There’s some blood on his shirt, and sweat stains. Bro turns on his heel and walks towards the bathroom, stripping as he goes. It is only once the door shuts behind him that you even begin to feel safe enough to move. You hear the shower go on, you hear him blast his music
For a few minutes, the pain and the guilt make it impossible to move. All you can do is think, and you know you can’t kill her, which means Bro will and he’s going to make it slow and it will be your fault. And then he might kill you too, which might no be so bad but, you think, as you sit up slowly against the protests of your ribs, if you’re going to die anyways, you might as well warn her first, because Bro is wrong. You may deserve death, but nobody who smiles like that could, nobody with such care in their eyes, they deserve to walk away and turn that stare on somebody who is good enough to be worth it.
The boy who had held your head in his lap and pushed the hair from your face, he is walking because of you, and no matter what Bro does you’re finding it harder and harder to think of it as anything but good. He says you’ve been saving lives all these years but it is only in this moment, in that moment, that you felt like maybe, even if you were a murderer, you were maybe doing something worthwhile. It’s started something and there’s no turning back. Dirk, maybe, would think it was worthwhile too. He had been bad at words, before, before, but he’d sat with you every change and when you woke up sick and shivering you’d wake up wrapped in his jacket, curled up against him.
Before you realize it, you are closing the motel room door behind you so quietly your post moon heightened senses can barely hear it. You have nothing with you, just jeans and the shirt you’re wearing and a pair of mismatched ratty socks, not even shoes. At least it’s warm outside, and still light. You start walking, down the stairs, Bro always gets a room on the top floor, and then out of the reception area and past the shady looking man who had given Bro the key in exchange for cash, out the door and then. You pause.
Bro takes long showers, hours sometimes, but you’re still on a time limit. And there, right there, is the van you’d been locked in the trunk of only hours before. You know how to jiggle and hit the handle of the driver’s side just right so that the door pops opened, never really fixed fro the time Bro nearly kicked it off in a rage. You know where to find the knives Bro’s hidden beneath the seats and in the cushions. You grab the biggest one you can find.
“Gonna die anyways,” you mumble, “can’t be deader than dead, he can only kill me once and it’s already gonna be slow,” and you crouch down.
It’s harder to slash tires than you thought, and you’re so scared to get caught you’re shaking so hard you can barely hold onto the knife, but the hiss of the air as each one goes flat is the most satisfying sound you’ve ever heard. A laugh bubbles up, hysterical and uncontrollable. There may be tears on your face, and it’s a little hard to breath but all you can do is laugh.
“I’m so dead. Oh god, I’m so dead I’m the lovechild of a vampire and a zombie’s ghost, Bro’s going to kill me and then he’s going to kill me again.” You still have the knife in your hand. Tucking it into your jeans is the only rational decision. And then you walk.
And you walk.
And you walk.
You kinda wish you’d grabbed your shoes but they could be loud and you hadn’t wanted to do anything you didn’t have to risk. The socks are ok for a bit, the first two miles, but then you step in something wet and then you’re walking in wet socks which doesn’t really need any description. By mile three, you’ve already pulled them off and tossed them in a trashcan you pass and then it’s walking some more. Pretty much everything hurts, but it’s easy to power through when you’ve got a goal in mind. Your heart is beating loudly in your ears and your ribs twinge with every step but. You walk.
And you walk.
Your feet are bleeding and you know, in your guts, in your heart, that you’re not going to make it. This was a pointless suicide run and you’re not going to save her. The tires may have bought you a little time, yeah, but Bro could call a taxi if he didn’t bring too many weapons, or he could get the tires replaced if he was feeling a little more patient and you were back to square one, only maybe two hours later.
You can’t walk anymore. There’s an alleyway nearby, though, and you can scoot in sit all scrunched up at the corner and pick the rocks and probably glass out of your feet.
The side of the building feels familiar as you bang your head into it, hard, like a punishment, a reminder of the throb of Bro slamming you into the wall. You are so close. And you’re impossibly far, just as far as ever. This was unbelievably stupid, and you deserve everything that’s coming to you. You’re not going to cry. Crying just makes you ugly and shit, and weak and you’re not allowed those things, and when you howl or whine or whimper Bro says you sound like the wolf you are. If you stuff your fist in your mouth it dampens the hiccups and if you bite down on your knuckles you can pretend any wetness is blood, or pain tears, the involuntary kind, semi acceptable rather than a punishable offence.
You sit there for a while, you think. Time kind of goes away. So does the rest of the world. You’re just kind of minding your own business, not crying, when you hear footsteps.
“Boy, you’re not looking too hot. By which I mean you look like shit.” You look up and your eyes blur for a second but when they’re clear all you can do is wheeze for a second. A minute.
The guy standing over you plops down next to you and sits in that obnoxious way he used to, how Bro still does, all spread out and definitely uncomfortable but looking chill, easy, you could never master it no matter how hard you tried.
“D-Dirk.” Your chest rises and falls. “You’re dead.” Dirk is sitting next to you, or what you remember him looking like, anyways, maybe the picture’s blurred over the years as much as you hate it. (Bro does not let you keep photos.) But something.
It smells off.
Literally. Scent memory is the longest lasting and you’re a wolf, your nose is better than any human’s. And he smells like something else, something that is not your brother. He does not smell bad, but he does not smell of awkward comfort and orange soda and hair gel. It’s all too clean.
“You’re not Dirk,” you say at last. You knew it the whole time, because Dirk is dead. It still hurts.
“Smart wolf,” the doppelganger says cheerfully. “I’m not Dirk. You can call me Hal.”
All you can do is stare.
“Not much of a talker, I guess. I thought this form would put you at ease, maybe, but I can change it if you’re not all into this look-”
“No.” You can’t help grabbing Hal’s arm. You just. You know Hal’s not him, not your bro, the cool one, the best one, but you haven’t seen Dirk’s face in so long, heard his voice, even this is something, something that feels as good as it hurts. Hal’s face is smug, the face of somebody who is used to being right. Dirk was also used to being right, but he had more of a poker face than this… this…
“What are you?”
“Rude. But straight to business. I can appreciate that!” Hal throws his arm over your shoulder and you flinch, but he looks like Dirk and there’s some sort of comfort to that, even if you know it’s not real. “Well, wolf kid,” says Hal, sweeping out his free arm. “I’m a fae. And you seem like you need some help. We’re all about helping, fae. It’s kind of our thing.”
This makes you try and scoot away, but Hal’s arm is surprisingly steely and he’s not letting you go, it seems, not just yet. You stare into his eyes, red like yours, now, not orange like Dirk’s, and your thoughts begin to drift. You do need help, don’t you, you need to get to the flower store before Bro finds you and then you need to run. Hal’s eyes brighten like sparklers.
“Just a bit of transport and a hiding spell. You’ve come to the best.”
“You came to me,” you can’t help but point out, and Hal grins in delight. “I thought fae couldn’t lie, but then you stroll in, pretending to be my dead brother and then act like I searched you out.”
“You’re in my territory, actually, so you did come to me, but I’ll let the sass slide.” Finally, he lets you out of the iron grip and you scramble back a few steps. “Don’t even want to hear the price?” Well damn. Now you’re curious despite yourself, and maybe you can make it to the flower store before your Bro kills Jade. Which is why you’re standing in the middle of a alleyway in the middle of fucking nowhere talking to a fae. Your face drops. Your aches throb. You have to do this, don’t you.
“Fuck.” You rub your eyes. “Fuck. Fine. Lay it out for me.”
Hal grins. “I would like a tooth. One of yours.”
He raises a singular brow, and damn, you could never get that right, no matter how many hours you spent staring at your reflection in the car window while Bro drove you around. “A tooth. You know.” He shows off his own. “The type you grow in your mouth. Preferably, I want one when you shift.”
That’s. Not too bad, actually. You don’t mind losing a tooth in order to save a life and get maybe a few more hours running free before you die. “Why the hell would you want a tooth?” says your stupid filterless mouth instead of anything relevant like if he can actually hide Jade or even get you to her.
“The answers to your questions are that wolf teeth are good at storing tricky magic, yes I can hide her, and yes I can get you there quicker than you can twist your panties. So.” Hal holds out his hand.
“Do we have a deal?”
“He’ll kill you,” you say, after a few seconds. “He’s going to kill us all. He doesn’t like… anything not human and he’ll kill you if you stop him. Do you get it?”
Hal’s eyes lose some of their mirth. “He won’t see me.”
“He will. ” He will take out his gun and his specialty bullets and the knives all plated in silver and if that doesn’t work he will try something else until anybody who stops him from getting to his things, from getting to Dave, is dead. That’s just how Bro is, that’s how he’s always been, sometimes you think he hates you for taking Dirk away, like breaking a favorite toy, more than he actually misses him.
This time when Hal puts his hand on your shoulder you know to feel for the strength. But when you try and break away, he lets you. His voice goes cold. Not cruel, not like Bro’s when you’ve taken a wrong step; just cold, like ice packs, like glowsticks, a different sort of magic but something all the same.
“Dave,” Hal says. You nod. “Dave, are you listening? Dave I am a fae. I cannot be killed with silver bullets. I will keep an eye on your pops but if it makes you feel better I won’t let him see me. I promise. I can buy you twelve hours, more if you get this girl out asap. Understand?” You stare. “Do you understand, Dave?”
“Yeah.” You do. You’re not sure you believe it, but you do. He offers you his hand to shake once more, to seal the deal, and this time, you take it, even though you’re shaking.
“Cool. I’ll see you around, Dave,” says Hal, and you don’t remember giving him your name, but he just grins and squeezes your hand and it gets really hot, all of the sudden, where his fingers are touching, like flipping over a pancake with your hands when the spatula is broken and there’s nothing else to eat and then by the time your mind has stopped wandering you are somewhere else.
You are, in fact, exactly where you need to be.
You recognize the shopping center and the plant store and full out sprint. It’s a bad idea: you’re still hurt, bad. Too much wolfsbane too, it’s messing with your stomach and breathing. A pair of little old ladies with the cloth kind of grocery bags give you a concerned look but you don’t have time to deal with that as you rush to Harley’s Horticulture. You only realize the store is closed once the glass door refuses to open.
Rattling at the handle proves futile. You don’t have lockpicks, and, more importantly, you don’t have time. twelve hours is something, yes, but it’s not enough. You’ll have lost most of it if you wait until the morning for the store to open and then you might as well have walked. Maybe, you think desperately, you can break the glass and make your way into the apartment on top of the shop that you’d caught sight of earlier. You punch it once, twice, hard enough to bust your knuckles, yes, but the glass refuses to so much as crack and you’re running out of time. It’s all you can do to sink slowly to your knees instead of collapsing all at once.
“Come on, please. I made a deal with a fae and I slashed my brother’s tires.” You’re leaving bloody dirty fingerprints on the glass. “Come on, come on, answer! Let me in!”
There’s nothing for a few seconds. And then. There’s barking.
“You’re! You’re that dog, that girl’s dog, Bex right?” She tilts her head at you, giant monster of white fluff and yellow teeth. “Bex! Good doggy. Go get uhh… Jade! Go get Jade.” Bex, (or was it Bec?), does not move except to snuffle at the glass separating the two of you. “You don’t understand me! Of course you don’t, you’re a dog, you’d think werewolf powers would give me something useful like talking to dogs, but no, I just get really sick and blackout once a month and kill my brother.” You frown at the dog. “C’mon, Bec, go get Jade.” She barks. “Please. Please, please, I can’t do this anymore.” It is so easy to curl up into a ball again, like in the alleyway, and pretend that you’re in the trunk and everything, at least, is quiet. A little bit of rocking, that’s the car moving, because if you’re locked in there at least Bro is locked out, and isn’t that sick? Isn’t that funny?
“Bec?” says a voice. “What’s wrong, gir- oh! Oh dear.” You look up. “You were here earlier, right? Are you… you’re not ok.” You open your mouth and nothing comes out but a choked off cry. “Grandpa? Grandpa!?! I need your help!” Jade bends over to take your pale, shaking hands in her own dark ones. There is still dirt under her nails, rough on the edges like she bit at them but long. She’s got about half a dozen friendship bracelets on her wrist. “You’re going to be ok, alright? Up you get.” She hoists you up and swings one of your arms over her shoulder. “Good girl, Bec. What a smart girl. Now, how did you get there? Should I call anybody?”
“Your brother. That guy who was in there with you earlier.” Her nose wrinkles: she does not have a poker face, not like you, or at least, not like you did before you dropped it to shatter on the pavement as was never able to put it back together quite right. She does not trust Bro. That is good, that’s smart, that makes your job easier. Still, she’s trying to be helpful as she sits you down in the chair behind the cash register. Faintly, you can hear the sound of someone shuffling around in the apartment upstairs. “Should I call him?” she asks, like it’s the last thing she wants to do, but like she’ll do it anyways if you tell her to. Jade turns to get a phone, maybe, or water or call the police, when you grab her arm. It’s all it takes to stop her.
“No!” It’s all you can say for a minute. “No, no. No.”
“I-” your voice cracks, fuck. “I came here to warn you. He. Knows you’re a - a wolf.” Her eyes flash at this, wolf green, and her glasses catch the red in your eyes so that she looks like she’s wearing some sort of traffic lights on her face except in a pretty way. You hear footsteps coming down the stairway.
“And?” Jade prompts gently, shooting a glare at the elderly man who is holding a first aid kit and getting too close your your comfort. When she turns her eyes back onto you, however, they’re soft again.
“He’s- he’s gonna kill you, he wanted me to k-k-kill you and now he’s going to- And I came to warn you, you have to run, he’s done it before, dozens of times, hundreds of times. Please,” you gasp. “Please. Run. I can’t. I can’t kill anymore.” The last word comes out as an embarrassing whimper.
“Jade, darling,” says the old man.
“Shush, Grandpa.” Jade kneels down to your eye level. “Is he the one who hurt you?” You’re not sure why you shake your head but Jade doesn’t seem to believe you anyways.
Jade’s gaze turns inward. You can just see the edge of her goofy gap teeth but she looks serious, for a moment. You hope she makes it out ok, even if you never see her again. There’s a few minutes of silence. It’s all you can do not to shake out of the chair. This is taking too long.
“Grandpa,” Jade says at last, turning to the old man. “I think it’s a good a time as any to go on that road trip we’ve been planning. There’s room in the car for three plus Bec, right?”
“You bet there is,” says Grandpa. All you can do is wonder where the third person is, who else’s life you have ruined. When Bro gets here and Jade is not, he will be angry. There’s no going back. Maybe you can run yourself, hold him off for a while, lead him in the wrong direction. The clock is ticking, but maybe you can squeeze out a few more seconds.
“It’s just us two living here,” Jade says, and you realize you must have said that all out loud. “We’re not going to just leave you here. You’re coming too.”
Thank you all so much for all the lovely comments! It really encourages me and it's just really great and awesome <3 <3 <3
Also! I finally finished homestuck this week! Hooray!! Hope you enjoyed this chapter!