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Nepeta's Adventuring Harem

Chapter Text

Nepeta walked through the compact sands of the wilderness, her neck-length black hair shifting in the wind and clinging to her bronze skin, wet with sweat. More and more short grass and spiky bushes began to dot the landscape before her. She was quite grateful for this, as it meant she was close to leaving the desert and getting to experience the world, just like she’d always dreamed. Her gratitude also stemmed from the fact her waterskin has already run dry, and dying from heat stroke on the first day of your adventure was a very lame way to kick the bucket.
She sniffed the air. Her nostrils are slit-like and her upper lip has a noticeable cleft in its middle, giving her face a great resemblance to that of a cat. That was not uncommon in her home. In fact, it was indicative of her people, and gave them their famed sense of smell and ability to breathe semi-clearly in sandstorms. However, she was not sniffing the arid sands of the desert, not anymore, she had caught onto a scent not entirely familiar to her.
“Smells kinda stinky… and salty… isn’t that how mother described the ocean?” Nepeta didn’t want to get her hopes up but found that she was beside herself with glee nonetheless. The ocean! The cool breeze! The clear water! The pretty creatures called fish! She adored every detail of the miraculous place known as sea. She sniffed here and there in her dash to reach the source of the smell, and she found… a river. Disappointing, but she can refill her waterskin here, and you don’t look a gift body of water in the mouth afterall. But that river is not the source of the scent she’d picked up, she realized. She was already crouched by the river, waterskin at the ready when she turned to look at the true source, an absolute behemoth of a man.
Well, perhaps he wasn’t all that big, in fact he wasn’t much taller than any other man, but he was so muscular that she was certain he could crush rock.
He brushed his long, straight hair out of his eyes and blinked.
“Ah, a cat.”
He said that as if he had just noticed her, though Nepeta could have sworn he was looking at her the whole time.
“Um, yes. The name is Nepeta.”
She rose slowly.
The man rose from the rock he had been sitting on. In his hand was a rag he was presumably using to wash the sweat off of his shirtless body in the river.
Nepeta found it odd that his sweat had an odor that reminded her of the ocean.
He spoke. “I like your bow. It is of quite a fine make. Where did you get it from?”
“Uh, my mother made it actually. I’m actually not very good at using bows, but she insisted that ‘a true hunter knows many tools and uses everything in their disposal to the best of their ability’” She was very clearly reciting something said to her more than a few times.
“Why, a bow is a fantastic weapon. You should use it as often as you can, for it is the noblest of weapons.” The man’s chest swelled with pride, and additional perspiration, as he delivered his critique of tools of archery. “Sadly, I cannot wield one myself. I keep breaking the bow whenever I attempt to knock an arrow.”
“Oh, you’ll get better at it! I’ve torn a few strings in my life.”
“No, not the string, the bow.”
“Hmm. Wait, wha—” She was cut short by a shout coming from downstream.
“HEY FUCKSTICK! ARE YOU DONE TAKING WHAT I CAN ONLY ASSUME IS A RAGBATH TO END ALL RAGBATHS OR WHAT?!”
The voice sounded hoarse and crabby.
“Ah, my master calls me. My name is Equius, and I am pleased to make your acquaintance.”
“I am pleased to make your acquaintance as well!” Equius reached to shake Nepeta’s hand, which he did. It hurt Nepeta a little.
As both parties turned away from one another, Nepeta began muttering to herself.
“Okay, adventure time, gonna go out, do… do stuff. Um.”
Her breathing hastened as she realized her plan wasn’t as well thought out as she hoped. Sure, she had a plan in mind: travel the wilds, hunt, go and visit towns. Until now, it had yet to really strike her that despite all her confidence, her plan was lacking in the everything department.
“HEY!! EQUIUS!!!” She called out after the large man, who turned his head to her, much to his master’s chagrin.
Nepeta finished her short sprint to his location and began to speak in a shaky voice “W-Where are you planning to go from here?”
“Oh for fuck’s sake- No! No no no! We are not picking up stray cat girls off the street like we're cat girl junkies desperately trying to get another hit of felicitous feline females! I’m sorry, whoever you are, but we are not adventuring with you.”
The man whose voice Nepeta recognized from earlier, Equius’s ‘Master’ as he put it, seemed to get progressively redder as he spoke.
“...So you ARE adventures then?” Nepeta said, a smile spreading on her face.
“Oh gods. Oh no. This is how it starts. Soon I’ll be drowning in random colorful assholes who want to save the world or some dumb shit, aren’t I?” The ‘master’ pinched the bridge of his nose. His body was toned, definitely not as muscular as Equius, but quite firm, and similarly without shirt. Nepeta couldn’t help but find her being a bit taller than him strangely endearing.
“If I may, master, I believe her skills will aid us, as neither of us can fight at long range, and she has a bow.”
Equius’s voice became more strangled as he said the words ‘master’ and ‘bow’.
The smaller man sighed deeply. “Fine. Fine. Sure! Listen up everyone!!! We’re the douchebag adoption center for abandoned asswads and we will accept any and all applications! Come one come all! Big sweaty weirdo! Random ass cat girl with a bow! Can I get a fucking clown midget or are we not quite into the HORRIDLY RIDICULOUS section of the list yet?!” He looked at the girl with a tired look, “My name is Karkat, it’s nice to meet you, we’re going into town to meet a friend, and we are as much adventurers as we are homeless and pathetic. Do you want in?”
Nepeta nodded enthusiastically.
“Cool. Don’t lag behind.”
Karkat turned and began to walk, as Nepeta leaned closer to Equius to whisper in his ear. “I told you I’m not good with a bow though.”
“That is okay. I’m rather fond of you from our brief meeting. And also please forgive the master’s temper.”
“Oh it’s fine! I actually think it’s kind of cute.”
Karkat exhaled from his nose. “I hate my life.”

Chapter Text

The group marched onward, following the river’s flow downstream. Nepeta stayed at the back of the party for the majority of the trip, letting Karkat lead.
Something had caught her interest immediately once she started walking with them, but she didn’t want to mention it to them. She instead indulged in some idle chatter with Equius, talking about their respective homes. Equius was more than enthused to discuss his homeland, the relative cold, their noble contests of battle, and their magic, which Nepeta was assured several times was the strongest of all magics.
Karkat, while otherwise silent, gave his opinion on these matters just as liberally as Equius, with cries of: “The snow sucks, it’s cold and irritating and gets everywhere.”, “Beating each other up for sport is proof that the saying ‘brain damage will only increase the cycle of brain damage’ is all too true.”, “Equius if you say the word ‘Muscle’ one more time I will vomit pure hate all over your precious rags.”
However, at some point she simply couldn’t hold back anymore.
“Equius? What are those uh, scars, you have there? On your back?”
Equius briefly looked down past his own shoulder. “These? Clearly you haven’t been listening, this magic circle was proudly burned into my back so I can use the STRONG magic that is musclebending.” He emphasized the word strong as if the word itself pleasured him.
“What did I say Equius?!” Karkat snapped
“My apologies master. Surely such behavior would bring about... punishment.”
Nepeta continued to study Equius’s back to the sound of Karkat groaning, gagging, and assuring her that his relationship with Equius is platonic and he would ditch him at the earliest opportunity. “-but he’s what passes for a magic user to our people for some reason, and frankly, every other magician I’ve met has been a huge douche.”
“Master, isn’t the only other magic user you’ve met Sollux?”
“So you agree with me.”
The scarred flesh of Equius’s back absolutely entranced the cat girl. It was slightly sunken, circles within circles, foreign symbols dotting them and lines crossing them. Musclebending was a straightforward name, she supposed, but she was quite curious to see what came of the application of such techniques.
Equius cut her train of thought, which was frankly getting quite gross. “Master, it’s nearly sundown. Should we set up camp?”
“We’ll reach town soon, and we’ll rest then. If it gets too dark just make a light.”
“Yes, master.”
Nepeta looked past her comrades to where the river flowed. She couldn’t see anything resembling a town in the horizon, but she trusted Karkat’s judgement and confidence.
She was wrong to do so.
Indeed it had gotten dark, and Equius lit a torch for them by making a very impressive flexing motion at it. Equius seemed uncomfortable walking in the dark, and Nepeta was starting to get tired of walking, but neither said anything. She thought that complaining may make Karkat think less of her, and he already viewed her as an unwelcome addition.
Karkat shivered slightly. He took the shirt he’s been carrying since meeting Nepeta and donned it. He scratched himself nervously. It had become quite apparent that he completely misjudged the distance they had to travel to town.
He opened his mouth to talk, but lost his breath as he was tackled away by Nepeta. “Watch out!”
An arrow shot from the dark of the trees that lined the road pierced the air that Karkat once occupied and slashed Nepeta’s back from shoulder blade to shoulder blade.
Equius snapped toward the trees, running to where the arrow came from, when a figure emerged from the dark and in a few swift motions, it had grappled Equius’s neck with a chain.
“Gah! What the fuck just happened!?” Karkat could see Equius struggling against his assailant and the torch on the ground, burning some of the grass, but not much else.
Nepeta rose and helped Karkat to his feet. She looked at the figure straddling Equius. It was wearing blue robes with cyan markings and patterns on them. On its face was a white mask, partially painted black in a pattern that reminded one of a clown’s face paint.
Karkat pulled out his sword, a simple blade, about the size of one’s arm from shoulder to wrist, hooked at the end. He ran toward Equius, ready to strike, but was overtaken by Nepeta, to his surprise.
The assailant prepared to leap off of Equius’s back to dodge, but as soon as their grip on the chain relented, Equius grabbed their arms, steadying them as Nepeta plunged a knife through their neck with a leap.
Karkat was about to comment on Nepeta’s brutal display, but as she finished her leap, a figure with a crossbow in their hand pulled on a nearby rope, entangling Nepeta’s foot and pulling her up toward the trees.
Equius was putting out the small fire caused by the torch by conjuring forth water from one hand, rubbing his neck with the other, and looking with concern at the trapped cat girl.
Karkat tried to run to assist her, and the assailant, masked just like the other attacker, was pointing his crossbow at Nepeta.
Time seemed to slow down for all those involved.
Karkat knew he wasn’t faster than an arrow, Equius was having trouble recovering from the strangulation he’d underwent, making him somewhat unfocused, and Nepeta couldn’t very well cut down the rope binding her before the arrow struck her all too exposed vital organs. ‘Was this it?’ She thought to herself. Nepeta closed her eyes tightly, the arrow was sent forth toward her, and Karkat reached out his hand to her, despite the great distance between them.
All of a sudden, a great flash of light erupted from where Nepeta was hanging, both rope and arrow were incinerated in the powerful electric blast.
Nepeta fell to the ground.
Karkat’s jaw dropped in awe.
Equius stammered “Ne-Nepeta?!”.
The masked figure started running toward the forest. No one thought to stop him.
Nepeta opened her eyes, keenly aware she’d fallen. “What… What happened?”
“You tell me!” Karkat’s face went through about ten emotions in the span of a second, “Since when are you such a strong magician!?”
“I’m not???” Nepeta seemed distressed, looking at her hands as if they would hold any answer.
“Bu-But, b-but but” Karkat felt as though he was going to faint.
“But.” Equius said, his voice steady.
Nepeta rose. She winced when the pain reminded her that her back was hurt.
“Should we… Search the body?” Nepeta asked uneasily.
Everyone looked at each other anxiously.
“I’ll do it.” said Karkat. He kneeled before the body. Shaking, he removed the mask from its wearer, before quickly putting it back. “Fuck.”
Equius drew closer to the corpse “Is it someone you recognize master?”
“No, it’s just some guy. But uh… Whoever this is, they’re very dead.” Karkat’s words were already made rather apparent by the blood pooling near the cadaver’s neck.
Karkat went through the person’s robes.
“...Just weapons. Don’t know what we were even looking for…” Karkat stumbled back to his feet.
“Let’s go.” He said, his voice cracking slightly. His companions agreed wholeheartedly, despite their injuries. Fear is one hell of a drug.
They walked onward, guided only by the soft glimmer of the river water under the moonlight. Eventually they made it to an area with farmland, houses, and stone roads. Karkat sighed heavily.
“Just a few streets forward and a turn left from here.”
They reached a somewhat large wooden house, a small ramp separating them from the door. Karkat walked forward and knocked.
A minute passed and the door was opened by a barely awake woman wearing a sleeping gown.
“Uhh, hi Kanaya. Any chance for a midnight doctor visit?”

Chapter Text

“You are aware you can come visit at normal hours, right Karkat?”
“Yes Kanaya.”
“And if you do show up late, you can just give a little ‘Hello’ and ‘Good night’ and crash on the couch, we’ve known each other for quite long, you are welcome in my home.”
“Yes Kanaya.”
“And maybe sometimes you can pop by with a snack or some flowers, and not a wounded cat girl for me to take care of. No offence, sweetie.” The doctor finished cleaning and dressing the wound across her surprise patient’s back.
“Yes Kanaya.” Karkat said with resignation. He was sitting on a small couch in what functioned as Kanaya’s waiting room, slouching tiredly.
“None taken.” Nepeta mumbled. She was feeling quite uncomfortable, both since she felt she was intruding on the kind woman, and because she was aware the only thing separating her shirtless body from Karkat’s gaze was a wall with a door frame and window frame, but no door or window to close. Her back was turned to the wall, as well as the doctor, Kanaya.
If she’s honest with herself, Kanaya made her a tad uncomfortable too. Whenever she reached around to her front, Nepeta felt her heart jump a little.
“Okay darling, you can put your clothes back on and go rest now. I’m sorry you had to get hurt like that.”
Nepeta make a small noise of agreement and put her breast band and short dress on.
“Adventurers's clothing is so drab. I ought to show you some finer fabrics later,” Kanaya half mumbled as she went out of the treatment area and up the stairs to where, presumably, her home proper was.
“Good night Karkat, Equius, and uh-”
“Nepeta.”
“Right, sorry.”
Kanaya disappeared completely from view and up the stairs.
Nepeta went to sit next to Karkat. Equius was on the floor, holding a small round object in his hand that Kanaya wordlessly pushed to his neck earlier. He had a blue streak across his neck. He was already asleep.
“...I suppose you go to see her often?” Nepeta asked, mostly to fill the silence.
“Yeah… I told you we’re homeless and pathetic.” Karkat chuckled.
“I’m… really sorry.” Karkat lifted his head to look at Nepeta. His eyes were red.
“This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten hurt-”
“No.” Karkat cut her off, “It’s not about that. It’s about how I treated you when we first met. I… I don’t want you to feel unwelcome.”
“Karkat.”
“And don’t think this is just because of how awesome you were in that fight, I mean you were, like wow! You just—”
“Karkat!” Karkat snapped at the sound of Nepeta’s voice.
“It’s fine. We haven’t been together too long at all, but you seem like good company. And if we get jumped again I’ve got your back.”
Karkat sighed, smiling. “Good night Nepeta.”
Karkat got up off the couch and down to the floor.
“Karkat what are you doing?”
“Well there isn’t room for two on that thing right? You should get some rest.”
Nepeta wanted to object, tell him that if he and Equius are on the floor then so is she. Instead she lied down on the couch and said “I’m scared, Karkat. I don’t know what’s happening.”
“...We’ll figure it out.” Karkat said softly, falling deeply into sleep.

Light hit Nepeta’s eyes the next morning, prompting her to open them. She looked at Equius, still peacefully asleep.
Soft footsteps caused her to crane her neck back to observe the source of the sound. It was a scrawny looking man with a pair of dark tinted glasses tucked into his black shirt. When he noticed her looking at him he pressed a single finger to his lips and silently hissed at her. He then bent over where Karkat was laying. He reached his hand forward, hovering over his face, and splayed his fingers wide.
He then sprayed water in Karkat’s face.
“GAH! What- Wha- Oh you amazing, writhing, piece of shit! When did you even get here!?”
“Last night doofus. And I got the guest room.” The man waggled his eyebrows at Karkat.
“Oh my god, it is FAR too early for your shit! Really, what a STUNNINGLY socially inept way to have a reunion! You’ve outdone yourself! Three cheers and a round of applause for Mr. Captor!”
At this point Equius had awoken and started rubbing at his throat, presumably still sore. Kanaya had also woken, and was loitering in the middle of the stairs, leaning against the rails. She turned to Nepeta, “This is normal.”
“Would you stop being a big baby KK? It’s just water. Or is any liquid other than your boy-toy’s sweat strange and alien to you now?” Mr. Captor retorted.
“Oh go choke on a magic crystal! I didn’t realize you could even TOUCH water, sir Fireball.” Karkat’s body language was surprisingly calm during this shouting match. Captor’s too. In fact, he even gave Karkat a hand when he was getting up from the floor.
Nepeta supposed that it must have been quite normal then, just as Kanaya said.
“Don’t criticize me on magic KK, not when-” Both parties seemed to catch themselves at that moment.
“Dude.” Karkat gave his conversational rival a meaningful look.
“I am so sorry I brought it up.” The man seemed genuinely sorry, and almost surprised at himself.
There was an awkward silence in the room, till Kanaya finally broke it.
“Would anyone care to join me for breakfast upstairs?”
The whole room answered in some form of agreement or another.
“Splendid. Sollux can start making it.”
By the look on the stranger’s face and Karkat’s snort, Nepeta came to the assumption that the man who woke up Karkat is Sollux Captor, and he is about to cook for them.

Everyone gathered by a rather sizable table placed a bit away from the stairs. Sollux was fighting with various kitchen implements, who were receiving massive cheers from an adoring crowd of Karkat, while Kanaya was in her room, preparing.
Equius nudged Nepeta. “Did you sleep well?”
Nepeta had noticeable bags under her eyes, making the question mostly rhetorical, something she picked up on. “Not really. It was kind of a stressful night after all…”
Equius nodded. Nepeta observed the movement of his neck as he did.
“Does it still hurt?” she asked him.
“Not at all. And you?”
Her wound burned like the sun on a hot summer day.
“Not at all!” she said cheerfully. He smiled at that.
Sollux called on the people seated to come to him and handed each a plate with a slice of bread on it, seemingly undercooked beans spread on top.
Before Nepeta got her plate, Sollux reached his hand to her.
“Sollux. It’s nice to meet you.”
She took his hand and shook it. “My name’s Nepeta! It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“So how do you know Kanaya?” He handed her her plate.
“I actually don’t. I’m here with Karkat.”
“Hmm, interesting.” He leaned in near her ear, “Blink twice if he’s forcing you to be here.”
She laughed “What is even the deal with the two of you? You were being really rude to each other earlier.”
Sollux picked up two additional plates. “Don’t even worry about it, Karkat knows I love him. Hey Karkat!”
“What is it, fuckstain?!”
“I love you.”
“Bite me.”
They all sat down, one plate left ownerless, waiting for Kanaya.
When she arrived she was dressed in a simple green dress, separated in the middle by a thick leather belt. Without darkness and sleep getting in her way this was the first time Nepeta got a chance to evaluate Kanaya’s looks. Her hair was a dark black, styled to perfection, her skin white, and pale at that, and her lips and cheeks were a stark red that was likely manufactured from cosmetics. She was rather fetching, Nepeta had to admit, if only for the amount of work she put into her appearance.
“Good morning everyone. You must be wondering why I called you here.”
“It isn’t because you want to spend time with us, I hope.” Karkat said, mouth half full.
“How could I ever refuse such well mannered company as that of my dearest friends and companions. But no, I’m afraid I have more sinister plans for all of you. First, we eat. Thank you Sollux.”
The food he had prepared was tolerable at best. Such a simple meal, by all means, shouldn’t be easy to ruin, yet he succeeded. A marvel only noted by himself, followed passionately by Karkat.
As they bickered, Kanaya leaned in toward Nepeta. “May I speak to you privately for a moment?”

Chapter Text

Kanaya led Nepeta away from the table and to a small cabin behind her house.
“What is this?” Nepeta asked.
“A small… treatment room, as it were.”
Nepeta wrinkled her face in response to what seemed like an attempt to dodge her question, but she followed Kanaya inside nonetheless.
The room inside was small and dark, and a certain dankness lingered in the air.
Kanaya grabbed a candle hanging by the door and blew on it, causing the wick to light. She used it to ignite two small piles of coals situated to either side of a stone stool, each in a small elevated pot that she then put a lid on.
“Please sit down.” Kanaya motioned to the seat by the light of the candle.
Nepeta followed obediently and sat down.
“What kind of treatment is this?” Nepeta was becoming visibly uncomfortable as Kanaya shut the door behind her.
“It’s a kind of… Sweat therapy. I suggest you make yourself comfortable.” Kanaya vaguely pointed at Nepeta’s clothes.
“Uhh.. You sure love getting me naked.” Nepeta chuckled nervously. She made no move toward her clothing.
“Come now dear, this is to treat your wound. I’d hate to see it become infected. Would it make you more comfortable if I undressed as well?”
“No!”, Nepeta blurted, “I’m fi-It’s fine.”
Nepeta began undressing as Kanaya hovered over her, to remove her bandages as it turned out.
The cat girl studied the doctor’s face anxiously as she went about this: Where she was looking, how she was looking at it, and why.
The woman had little to no emotion in her face. Amusement perhaps? But she seemed rather business-like about the whole thing, which served to reassure Nepeta.
When all but the younger woman’s undergarments were put aside, even her breast band laid on the floor of the small cabin, Kanaya began ladling water on the lids of the pots, causing steam to rise from them.
“Now, what we’re trying to do here is just make you sweat a bit. It has more health benefits than just helping with your wounds, you know. I’d highly recommend it.” Kanaya’s tone was cheerful, as if trying to produce a laugh from her patient, but she was met with anxious nods and distracted sounds of agreement.
Kanaya sighed. “There is another reason I wanted you here.” She grabbed a cloth and wiped it across Nepeta’s cheek. The touch caused Nepeta to snap back from her worried thoughts of the doctor’s gaze and look into her eyes. It also made her convinced the fires had just begun to burn slightly hotter.
“You were attacked, weren’t you?”
Kanaya’s eyes, full of genuine caring and love, almost hurt Nepeta.
“...Yes. Karkat and Equius didn’t say anything, so I didn’t either.”
Kanaya continued wiping Nepeta at various places on her body, minding her wounds, and squeezing the cloth into a bucket when it had gotten too damp. When the steam would start to fizzle, she poured more water on the heated pots, occasionally checking on the coals inside and stirring them with the ladle. And she spoke.
“Karkat is far too proud to mention it, but of course I noticed. Not that Equius’s injuries could be explained by… Very many other means.” She chuckled dryly. Her skin shone from sweat in the candlelight, giving her an ethereal look. “Could you describe the assailants?”
Nepeta thought for a second. “They were two of them. They wore fancy looking blue robes, and had strange masks.”
“White, with patterns painted in black, around the eyes and mouth?”
“Yes! Are they common around here?”
Kanaya paused.
“No. Not at all.” Her gaze was lowered, leaving her eyes in shadow. Nepeta found the expression grim. “A pen pal of mine wrote to me about them a while ago. He hasn’t written since.”
Kanaya swallowed loudly. Nepeta had begun to feel light headed, she hoped from the heat.
Kanaya drained the cloth of sweat one last time. She reached her hand out to Nepeta.
“I believe the treatment is done. Come.”
She helped Nepeta rise, but stopped her from reaching toward her clothes. Cautiously, she poured water over the coals to put them out, and blew on the candle to the same effect.
In the dark, Nepeta could see her opening a latch in the wall and opening a window.
Nepeta sighed in relief as cool wind and light poured into the room.
“Wait here one moment.” She instructed, her usual polite pep returning to her voice.
Kanaya returned with a bucket of water, that was promptly and violently emptied on Nepeta.
“GAHHHH!” She screeched at the sudden change of temperature.
“Now now. This too is important for your health.” Kanaya said, as she poured the last of the water on Nepeta’s now somewhat more healed back, holding back laughter. Nepeta hadn’t noticed just how badly her back stung from the salt of her sweat till now.
“You may dress now.” Kanaya handed the cat girl a fresh cloth to dry herself with, to the sound of her own words being repeated to her in a quiet, deep voice of mockery.
“So was this whole sweat thing just to have this talk, or is there an actual benefit to it?” Nepeta dried herself rather hurriedly, wanting to put on her clothes as soon as possible.
“Well…” Kanaya started, lifting the bucket of sweat. “I may have had an ulterior motive. Were you aware that cat folk sweat has healing properties?” Kanaya was aware of the rhetorical nature of her question, but she regretted it the faintest bit when seeing the scornful look of her patient, as she grabbed her dress at either side.
“...I feel violated.” She said, leaving the cabin to join their ever curious companions, making loud jests at Kanaya’s expense about the nature of her treatment.
Kanaya stopped to cool her own sweat-covered body, and cast a look at the cheerful cat girl.
She couldn’t help but furrow her brow with concern as she looked at her.

Chapter Text

“You guys were in there for damn near an hour! Also, you reek.”
This was how Sollux greeted Kanaya as she rejoined the group.
“I don’t smell anything weird,” said Karkat, who was questioning Nepeta as to what Kanaya did to her and the potential damages that may have occurred.
“That’s because you have Equius’s stench imbedded into your nose,” the spectacled man said.
“I have a perspiration problem.” Equius said, with venom in his voice.
Kanaya clapped forcefully, directing all attention toward herself.
“I suppose I have left you in suspense for long enough. You are probably wondering exactly why I have gathered you here. I believe a friend of mine may be in trouble, and we need to help him.”
There was a silence as the crowd studied the woman’s face, Karkat and Sollux doing so rather intensely.
Karkat broke the silence. “How much trouble?”
“Hopefully about a six.”
Karkat and Sollux’s faces became a grim mask.
“That’s bad I assume?” Nepeta looked to Equius for answers, but he merely shrugged, looking just as puzzled as her.
“I believe that trouble is directly related to those who assailed you last night,” Kanaya continued, “and I believe I know where they are hiding.”
“I wouldn’t say we were ‘assailed’—” Karkat started, before Kanaya swiftly interjected.
“You were hurt!”
“I actually found the fight rather… exhilarating.” Equius huffed.
“Well, hopefully now with Nepeta’s help, you won’t have to fight. You are adept at sneaking, yes?”
Nepeta was about to respond, but Sollux cut her off “We already have someone that can sneak in though?”
“No.”
“Abso-fucking-lutely not!” Kanaya and Karkat were both quick to shut down his line of thinking.
Sollux huffed “Get over yourselves. Those girls are the best and you know it.”
“...He has a point. For once.” Karkat rolled his eyes.
“Oh up you-!”
“Can you reach them?” Karkat asked with a serious tone.
Sollux paused.
“Yeah, sure.”

Nepeta felt entirely out of the loop at this point.

As the group was walking to where Sollux claimed he could reach ‘those girls’, Nepeta was starting to feel uncomfortable.
She took a genuine liking to Karkat, and Equius too, but now it seemed in the span of a day her chances of bonding with him, that is to say them, dropped significantly.
Of course that having a large circle of friends doesn’t stop one from fraternizing with any cat girl one pleases, but now anywhere from 4 to infinity (depending on the amount of ‘girls’) people who are already close to Karkat are joining this adventure. That isn’t bad per se, but it isn’t how Nepeta saw it in her head, but then how did she see it in her head?
Nepeta was distracted from potentially answering that question by a clammy hand put on her back.
“You seem concerned.” Equius said in his thick voice.
“Oh no! I’m-I uh. Yes. Yes I am.” Nepeta sighed.
“I understand,” Nepeta felt relief. Equius seemed just out of the loop as her. His sympathy was just what she needed right now. “A rescue mission can be deeply emotional for those who haven’t prepared for such things.”
Nepeta hummed quietly in response, as some form of half-hearted agreement.
“We’re here.” Sollux said, stopping the travellers.
“We’re… where?” Nepeta looked around. They had left the town by taking a paved, unmarked, rather uneven road, and ended up in a place whose only remarkable feature is a tree. That tree however, was left unremarkable by the visage of several other trees dotting the landscape. No strange sounds, no atypical smells, just about all of the terrain in clear view. If anyone was here, Nepeta would surely know.
“This is how I can reach them.” He slipped a piece of paper into a slit in the tree. It made a small ‘thunk’ noise when it hit the bottom.
Everyone stood and waited, occasionally looking around or at each other.
After some time, Sollux pointed at a tree some ways away from them, exclaiming “There!”
The group turned to look at the direction he was pointing at, a depressed area in the ground dotted by some rocks.
“There?” Kanaya repeated.
“There. It’s a good place to wait for them to get here and check this tree.”
Karkat gave Sollux a tired stare.
“Why. In the name of FUCK. Did you even do this then you braindead feculent shitfister?!”
“It’s a PROCEDURE asswipe. We put a request in the tree, they check it so long as no one is near, and they get back to us once they do. The system is based on staying in a specific radius around the tree so that they can see us, but we can’t quite see them.”
Kanaya came up to Sollux and put a hand on his shoulder. “Sollux. Is this organized crime? Are you a criminal? I won’t be mad if you are, but I’ll have concerns.”
Sollux walked off toward the waiting spot he’d designated.
“Oh gods he’s a criminal, where did I go wrong?”

Kanaya’s question was never answered. The group sat to wait. Sollux and Karkat amused themselves and others in their conversation that spanned topics as inane as personal opinions on bees to deep philosophical discussions about one’s role in society and how it should come to fruition.
Nepeta sat silently by Equius and Kanaya, eventually resting her head on Equius’s muscular arm in her boredom.
Kanaya excused herself to a nearby area with more foliage, enough to optimally cover an adult female’s body should she squat. Her reason was ‘official doctor business’, a motive that Equius was luckily stopped from questioning by Nepeta’s agile hand.
Just as it seemed Karkat may have been able to create the coveted conversational knot to tie his and Sollux’s conversation together by likening total governmental control to a colony of bees, a shriek was heard from where Kanaya had went.
“Kanaya?!” Karkat and Sollux both called after her, as Equius and Nepeta nearly leapt out of their seats to rush to her.
“No wait! It’s um.. it’s a dead cat. It’s a bit decomposed. Really gross. Don’t come near!”
Each pair of eyes met another, about 3 times in total.
“Okay!” Equius bellowed, his face contorted into a mix of confusion and concern.
He moved to sit back down, but Nepeta stopped him.
“Can we have a little private talk?”
He nodded, and the pair went a few paces away from the waiting area and vaguely toward Kanaya’s location.
“What did you want to talk about?”
Nepeta hesitated.
“I’m really stressed out right now. We’re doing some really shady business to save someone from a murderous… organization? I don’t even know. But it’s more than that. I left my home looking for adventure and new things, because I couldn’t bear to stay there, but now I’m with people I don’t know doing something I don’t understand using MAGIC I don’t know.”
Equius embraced Nepeta. “I understand you completely. I too left my homeland behind seeking thrills in the great wide unknown.” He paused. “No, that isn’t quite true. I didn’t leave by my own volition, not truly. I was sent here for a definite amount of time, that I have made indefinite. I miss my home, and I feel stressed and scared, and quite damp, most hours of the day. But this does not bother me.”
“How come?” Nepeta asked, her arms limp and eyes closed.
“Because I have master Karkat with me. I couldn’t possibly be scared with my master next to me. You should find someone that can give you the same comfort.”
Nepeta prodded at Equius to get him to stop the embrace. “I will. Thank you Equius!” She smiled at him.
The whole group got together once more, each member turning their attention to a silhouette standing by a tree, reading a letter.
An arm outstretched.
A thumb raised.
“That’s our cue.” Sollux said with a sly smile.
“I just gotta take you to a little secondary location.”

Chapter Text

It was already dusk when they received their ‘cue’, as Sollux put it. He was now leading them to a more heavily forested area where very little light came through the thick treetops.
“That’s close enough!” a sing-song voice commanded from above them.
The group stopped. They all began looking up around them nervously, except for Sollux whose gaze remained fixed forward, and Karkat who crossed his arms and sulked as if avoiding an invisible gaze.
A chorus of giggles emerged from the forest as the same silhouette that they saw by the tree appeared, cloaked in what appeared to be a brown fur sheet. It was very tall, possibly surpassing Equius if not hunched. Was this one of the ‘girls’? Nepeta knew that many kinds of people and creatures exist outside the desert, but she didn’t know exactly what. She was almost frightened to think of what these tall, thin, cloaked beings may be capable of that allowed them to sneak so well.
However, her fears subsided when the sheet opened to reveal two small, distinctly female shapes stacked on top of each other.
‘Oh.’ Nepeta thought.
One jumped off the other, both giggling their high-pitched giggles. Well, the one formerly on top giggled, the other would be better described as having cackled.

Sollux bent his knees and shook their hands. They picked up his hand at the same time, quite gingerly, one giving a curtsy as well. This was followed by another round of laughter. All the while Nepeta, took good looks at them.
The giggling one, same one that curtsied, had long black hair and a dangerous sharpness to all her features. The other, the one that cackled, had shorter brown hair and an air of smarm about her. Most of all Nepeta couldn’t help but focus on their bodies. They couldn’t have been much larger than a meter tall, certainly never crossing close to a meter and a half. This coupled by their constant energetic laughter and behavior would lead one to believe those were children, indeed girls, but their bodies were undeniably those of women, fully grown.
Equius huffed. “Gnomes.”

“Soooooooolluuuuuuuux!~” the longer haired gnome sang, “What have you brought for us today? I see new faces!” Comically, she grabbed Sollux’s shirt and used it to swing herself onto his shoulder. She took a look at the group’s expressions, ranging from disdain to confusion.
“And old ones too!” the other laughed, “Say Vriska, isn’t this Karkat?”. She asked her question in an overly exaggerated manner, the one that makes it clear she knew the answer well.
Vriska turned to face him, still on the ever neutral Sollux. “Why I believe it is!”
Karkat groaned.
“Say Terezi, isn’t he from that one night?” Vriska asked.
“When we stole that barrel of glow wine?” Terezi answered by way of asking.
Kanaya whined.
“And he wanted to fight that cop?” Vriska continued.
“And he sh-”
“THAT’S ENOUGH!” Karkat interrupted.
There was a silence.
“Master, is that the night before I-”
“UPUPUP!” Karkat waved him arms wildly.

Sollux removed Vriska from his shoulder much like how one would lift a cat off their person and put her down.
“So how much to get your help?”
The two girls pressed into each other and began whispering, occasional laughter still escaping them.
Their faces became very serious. In unison they reached out their hands and said:
“20.”
Sollux huffed and grumbled, but reached into his pockets to provide the coins.
“Each.” Terezi said.
He sighed and turned to Kanaya, who sighed in turn, but nonetheless both handed their money to the girls.
“May we do the rest of this in a more well-lit area?” Kanaya asked the pair.

The group moved to a small clearing. Behind them was a wall with a few holes dug into it. It reminded Nepeta greatly of a burrow, like one that a hare may be found in, but built for a larger creature, say not much larger than a meter tall.
The clearing was lit by a variety of mismatched lanterns strewn haphazardly on the ground. Two of said lanterns were used to hold a sheet a paper in place. That paper, as Kanaya explained, was a map detailing the build of an abandoned guard post found on the other side of a lake far to the southeast. This translated to Nepeta as a long walk.
“All the guard posts built at the time looked about the same as they were needed quickly, and were abandoned just as quickly. This makes them a common place for people to seek shelter, for whatever purposes they need it. I believe our target will be in the cellar here.”
She pointed to a rectangular shape at the bottom of the map, drawn in green dye.
“Do you think you could come up with a plan to get inside and get him out?”
The two girls went to study the map.
“One more thing. Take her, Nepeta, with you.” Kanaya pointed to the dozing cat girl behind her.
“Excuse me?” Nepeta snapped from her daze.
“You will carry him out.” Kanaya said plainly. Nepeta was more than prepared to voice potential objections about that idea, but before she could Kanaya smiled kindly at her and said “I uniquely trust you to do this.”
Nepeta said nothing and nodded.
Vriska and Terezi looked at each other, then Nepeta.
“Well get in here long-stuff!” Vriska called.
Nepeta crouched by the two, and Terezi began to speak.
“So first, if there are any guards outside, I’ll disperse them. They’re sure to still keep watch, but well, I’ll make sure it won’t be from the outside…” She grinned. Nepeta found this unsettling. She chose not to ask about her exact plans.
Vriska continued “Now the question is how do we get in? The doors are sure to be guarded and they’ll be watching from any windows.”
“How many people will even be there?” Sollux asked.
Kanaya answered “We have no way of knowing, but planning for a worst case scenario is probably best.”

As the group thought up solutions to the problem Vriska posed, Equius saw fit to interject.
“If I may, I think there is a fine way to avoid any interruption and still scale these walls.” He motioned toward Nepeta’s bow, habitually hung on her shoulder, with his hand.
A moment passed. The rest of the group studying the bow, Equius seeming satisfied with himself, and Nepeta staring blankly as if not quite processing the proposition yet.
“Yeah… Yeah!~ I think I can make that work.” Vriska’s chuckling sounded more sinister than it had before.
“If we shoot a rope to here,” she pointed at a terrace on the east side of the structure, “we can make our way through here,” she dragged her finger to a small caricature of a ladder, presumably indicating an entry to the inside of the building, “and then right through here is the cellar.” Sollux came to take a better look at the map. “...That’s the floor. There’s no entry from there.”
“Not yet there isn’t!” Vriska began laughing uncontrollably, Terezi joining her.
“And that’s where you come in!” She poked Nepeta in the ribs, alarming her.
“You get in through there and grab him! Boom, mission accomplished.”
“She still needs to EXIT, Vriska.” Terezi reminded her partner. This soured Vriska’s expression.
“Well uhh…”
“Okay before you go further, I feel a need to disturb this meeting of the minds.” Karkat started.
“What’s stopping them from taking you out once you’re on the very conspicuous rope?”
Terezi gave Karkat a sly look. “What are you here for sword boy? Be a distraction for us, won’t you? Hehe, it even saves me having to do crowd control!”
Karkat sneered. “I’m only agreeing because I would do a job thousands of times better than you. Equius and Sollux will help me.”
“Yes Master.”
“Oh, come on.”
“And as for your exit problem… Well they probably won’t have as many people in the cellar at that point right? You could probably go out the back here and be just fine.” As Karkat finished he crossed his arms in a very confident manner.
“A great plan as always from Master Karkat.” Equius clapped.
“Okay cut the brown nosing, if you were kissing my boot any harder you’d be sucking my toes.”
Kanaya opened her mouth to speak, paused, then continued “So is he on your feet or your…”
“Yes.” Came the reply from both master and servant.

With a bizarre image and a somewhat formulated plan in mind the group had started settling in for a rest.
The Gnomes moved into the holes in the wall, crawling in a way that seemed oddly natural. The rest started pitching tents. There were four in total, and five people.
“Girl’s tent?” Sollux suggested.
“Oh no, it’s fine. I didn’t bring a tent because I enjoy sleeping outdoors.” Nepeta waited for a second before continuing further. “Isn’t one person per tent a bit… Lonely?”
“I am NOT sharing a tent with Equius.” Karkat said.
“And I do not fancy the nightly company of any man. Equius happens to be included.” Kanaya said.
“I am very hurt by these statements, but I understand.” Equius concluded before entering his tent.
The last to go to rest were Kanaya and Nepeta. Kanaya gave the cat girl one last concerned look before retiring, but said nothing. Nepeta did not meet her gaze.
once the doctor was inside her cloth room and all was silent, Nepeta collapsed to the ground and groaned softly.
“I can’t do this…”

“I think you require assistance.” The rumbling voice caused Nepeta’s heart to jump, but her body stayed still.
“Equius? N-No I’m fine…” Her voice trailed off.
“I can recognize when a person is hurt. I don’t know why Kanaya hadn’t offered assistance yet, but that is beside the point. Why do you deny yourself rest? You haven’t slept yesterday either, and during no point today did you attempt a nap, despite our very lax time.”
Nepeta just looked at Equius’s face, seeming wide and flipped from her perspective on the ground, and said nothing.
This silence lasted a long time, before she said.
“I can’t sleep because… It- It’s embarrassing.”
“Try me.” He put a hand to her cheek. It threatened to engulf her head, and smelled salty. “Like the ocean” she murmured.
“I can’t sleep because. Because I can’t… I can’t sleep by myself.”
Equius gave a dry chuckle, and Nepeta swatted his hand away.
“It’s just how things are where I’m from! You always sleep in a group. I guess I don’t know why we do it, but we just do… And I thought I could go without it but…”
Equius picked her up with no strain.
“Well it can’t be helped then.”
Equius put Nepeta down in his tent and laid next to her.
“...Thank you.”
Nepeta snuggled into Equius’s fragrant chest.
“Thank you…” Equius repeated softly.